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Title: Henry the Fifth
Author: Church, A. J.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Henry the Fifth" ***

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  English Men of Action



[Illustration: HENRY THE FIFTH

From a Picture in the possession of Queen’s College, Oxford.]




  _The right of translation and reproduction is reserved_



  THE BOYHOOD OF HENRY                         1


  PRINCE HENRY AND PRINCE HAL                  7






  ACCESSION TO THE THRONE                     43


  THE FRENCH CROWN                            50


  PREPARATIONS FOR WAR                        59


  THE INVASION OF FRANCE                      67


  AGINCOURT                                   76


  AFTER AGINCOURT                             88


  HENRY AND THE LOLLARDS                      97


  HENRY AND QUEEN JOANNA                     105




  HENRY’S MARRIAGE                           123


  THE SIEGE OF MELUN                         131


  THE LAST CAMPAIGNS                         137


  THE DEATH OF HENRY                         144



Henry was born in the castle of Monmouth on August 9th, 1387. He was
the eldest of the six children of Henry of Lancaster by Mary de Bohun,
younger daughter and co-heiress of Humphrey de Bohun.[1] Humphrey,
as the last male descendant of the De Bohuns, united in himself the
dignities and estates of the Earls of Hereford, Northampton, and Essex.
The elder daughter, Eleanor, was married to Thomas of Woodstock,
youngest son of Edward the Third. Eleanor’s husband hoped to secure
the whole of the Hereford estates, amounting, it is said, to fifty
thousand nobles of annual income (not less, it may be calculated,
than two hundred thousand pounds of money at its present value). He
took charge of his sister-in-law, and had her carefully instructed in
theology, intending that she should take the veil in a convent of the
Sisters of St. Clare. John of Gaunt had other views for her future. He
took occasion of his younger brother’s absence in France to have her
removed to Arundel Castle, where she was very soon afterwards married
to his son Henry. She died in 1494 in her twenty-fifth year. She was
better educated, it appears, than most of the ladies of her day, and
it would seem that some of her taste for books descended to her son.
The character of Henry of Lancaster has been variously estimated. He
won in his youth a high reputation for enterprise and courage. We
find him fighting against the Mahommedans in Barbary in one year,
and in the next against the Pagan tribes of Lithuania. His skill in
all martial exercises was conspicuously great. But, according to one
account, he was so stained with crime that his own father wished him
to be put to death. He was a bold and probably an unscrupulous man,
whom circumstances exposed to a very strong temptation. The weaknesses
and vices of Richard the Second put the throne within his reach. We
can easily believe that he really felt himself better qualified to
rule than his feeble and capricious cousin, and it is just possible
that he may have persuaded himself or been persuaded by others that
there was something in his claim of hereditary right to the throne. The
power unjustly gained was retained by the methods to which an usurper
is commonly driven, by falsehood and by cruelty. Former friends were
betrayed--as, for example, the Lollards, who certainly had helped him
to the throne--and enemies were ruthlessly crushed. The power thus
won and maintained descended to his son in happier circumstances. The
younger Henry’s title was not seriously questioned. There was, it
is true, a conspiracy against him, but it was not supported by any
formidable party in the nation. A great success, won early in his
reign, made him the object of popular enthusiasm. At the same time he
had the advantage of a singularly attractive exterior: the hereditary
beauty of the Plantagenets was conspicuous in him. And he was _felix
opportunitate mortis_: he died before the lustre of his achievements
and the charm of his personal qualities were dimmed by failure and
the corrupting influences that wait on power. It was with him as it
would have been with the Black Prince if he had died after Poictiers.
Yet, allowing for some differences of a finer organisation, it is not
difficult to see some of the main characteristics of the fourth Henry
in his more fortunate son.

If tradition may be trusted, the young Henry was a delicate child, and
was put out to be nursed at a village near Monmouth. The cradle in
which he had lain was long shown as a curiosity at Bristol, and the
name of his nurse, Joan Waring, appears in the public accounts, from
which we learn that an annuity of twenty pounds was settled upon her
after her foster-son’s accession to the throne.

The household-book of John of Gaunt gives some interesting glimpses
of the lad’s education. We have an item of money paid for strings for
his harp, and another of four shillings expended on seven books of
grammar for his use. The continued weakness of his health may be seen
in the payment of a courier who announced to his father the fact of his
alarming illness.

He had just entered on his twelfth year when his father was banished.
He remained in England, probably under the care of his grandfather.
But John of Gaunt died in the February following his son’s banishment,
and a few weeks afterwards Henry of Lancaster’s estates were seized
by the Crown on the ground that he had slandered the King, and was
consorting with his enemies abroad. The young Henry accompanied Richard
to Ireland, and was sent to the castle of Trim in Meath, the ancient
meeting-place of the Irish Parliament. He seems to have been kindly
treated, and received the honour of knighthood from the King’s hands.
He was left behind in Ireland in company with his cousin, the young
Duke of Gloucester, when Richard returned to England in July. On August
18th Richard was made prisoner. The young Henry was immediately sent
for, and was brought to England in a ship furnished by a citizen of
Chester. At Chester he met his father, whom he accompanied to London.
On September 29th Richard, who was now in the Tower, signed a deed of
abdication: on the 30th Parliament met and declared him to be deposed;
and on the same day the Duke of Lancaster was seated on the throne by
the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

Henry is said to have been created Prince of Wales by his father on
the day of his coronation. At least we find him in possession of that
dignity a fortnight afterwards, when the King grants to his “most
dear eldest son Henry, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, and Earl of
Chester, the custody and rights of all lands of heirs under age in the
principality of Wales and the counties of Chester and Flynt,” and also
orders him to be put in possession of the revenues of the duchy of
Cornwall. The Council also had to consider where he should reside, and
what establishment should be kept up for him.

Before long negotiations were entered upon for his marriage. Towards
the end of the year a mission was sent to the King of France,
proposing in general terms alliances between the two royal families.
The proposal was rejected contemptuously. The King of France knew
of no King of England but his son-in-law Richard. Before many weeks
were past, Richard was dead--by what means it does not belong to
our present purpose to inquire--leaving a virgin widow, Isabella of
Valois. Isabella, eldest of the five daughters of Charles the Sixth of
France and Isabeau of Bavaria, was then in her thirteenth year. She
had all the beauty of her race, and would be a richly-dowered bride.
Henry lost no time in asking her hand for his eldest son. The demand
was not welcome either to the French Court, which was not disposed to
recognise Henry’s title, or to the young lady herself, who seems to
have cherished a fond recollection of her husband. It was renewed more
than once with the same ill-success. Henry was afterwards to win for
himself by a very rough wooing a bride of the same house, the youngest
of Isabella’s sisters.

If we are to believe a local tradition, the young Henry studied for a
time at Queen’s College, Oxford, under the care of his uncle Henry,
afterwards Cardinal Beaufort, whom we know to have been Chancellor of
the University during the two years 1397–8. The Chancellor was then
a resident officer, performing the functions now delegated to the

Queen’s College had been founded in 1341 by Robert Eglesfield under the
auspices of Philippa, Queen of Edward the Third, and might therefore
be considered a specially appropriate residence for princes of the
Plantagenet line. A room in the college over the gateway that fronts
St. Edmund’s Hall was long shown as having been occupied by Prince
Henry. His portrait was to be seen painted on the glass of the window,
while an inscription in Latin recorded (it disappeared with the gateway
early in the last century) the fact that “Henry V, conqueror of his
enemies and of himself, was once the great inhabitant of this little
chamber.” This glass is now in the upper library. It is difficult to
estimate the precise value of such a tradition. There is no documentary
evidence to confirm it; on the other hand, it is not intrinsically
unlikely. Henry had some of the tastes of a student. This fact and the
academical standing of his uncle might have suggested a residence at
Oxford as a useful way of employing some of his time. Such a residence,
if it ever took place, must be assigned to some time between October
1399 and March 1400–1. At the latter date he had begun to take a part
in public affairs, for we find on March 10th, 1400–1, that King Henry
grants, “on the supplication of his most dear son, the Prince of
Wales,” a pardon to all the rebels of four counties of North Wales,
with three exceptions, of whom Owen Glendower is one. Thenceforth his
name occurs, as will be seen, continuously in the State documents of
the time.



He who would draw a portrait of Prince Henry finds himself anticipated
by the work of a master hand, a work done in colours so fresh
and vivid, and with outlines so firm, that rivalry is hopeless.
Shakespeare’s “Prince Hal,” the reckless, brilliant lad, now bandying
jests with bullies and sots in city taverns, now leading his troops
to victory on the field of Shrewsbury, is one of those creations of
genius which, be they true to history or untrue, never lose their hold
on the minds of men. No sober description of the actual Henry, however
accurately worked out of authentic details, can possibly supersede the
figure which the great dramatist has made immortal. If I may borrow
an illustration from literature, it is here as it is with Pope and
the rival translators of Homer. Nothing could be more unlike the real
_Iliad_ than the polished epigrammatic rhetoric of Pope’s version,
yet it is so masterly a work, so splendid in style, so magnificent in
versification that it is the despair of the most scholarly and the most
faithful translators; whatever the learned may say, the world still
reads “Pope’s Homer.” So the world will always think of Henry in his
youth as the Prince Hal who spoils Falstaff of his ill-gotten booty at
Gadshill, laughs at him and with him over his cups in Eastcheap, and
soliloquises over his prostrate bulk at Shrewsbury. Many figures in
history seem to bring up before us these curious _eidola_, which even
the best information cannot wholly banish from our minds. Who can quite
dissociate his conception of the first Cyrus from the figure which
Xenophon has pourtrayed in his philosophical romance, or forget, when
he thinks of Tiberius, the gloomy profligate and tyrant who stands out
so vividly from the pages of Tacitus?

The brilliant figure, then, of the first and second parts of _Henry
the Fourth_ is at least a literary fact. I do not propose to enter on
a connected discussion of its authenticity. There are many genuinely
historical details which we have about Henry’s real personality, and
we have at least some suggestions of the source from which the great
dramatist drew his materials.

Of course it is easy to take Shakespeare too seriously. Supreme in
genius as he was, he was also a playwright, had to do a playwright’s
work, and descend, if we must say so, to a playwright’s arts. His
audience had to be amused; and certainly no audience was ever better
amused than were the pit and the galleries of the Globe by Prince Hal
and Falstaff. The slender, graceful youth, with gay dress and plumed
and jewelled cap, was the happiest foil to the huge “man mountain,”
with his untrussed hose and wine-stained doublet. The fancy, too, of
the people was caught by the notion of this young heir to the crown
drinking sherry-sack, as might any one of themselves, in an Eastcheap
tavern. It was an excellent jest, with just a spice of romance in it,
less familiar also than the manners of some of our heir-apparents since
that time have made it. Shakespeare never could have dreamt that he was
raising a grave question for historians to quarrel over.

The fact is that the great dramatist, whose genius was never more
signally shown than in transmuting other men’s lead into gold, found a
play, dull enough in itself, which he fashioned into that masterpiece
of humour, the comedy of _Henry the Fourth_. _The Famous Victories of
Henry the Fifth_ was possibly written by William Tarleton, a comedian
who flourished in Elizabeth’s reign. It is known that he acted in
it, taking the part of Sir John Oldcastle. Of the real Oldcastle it
is sufficient here to say that he was a man of lofty morality, who
witnessed to his convictions by his death. In Tarleton’s play--if
it be his--he is a vicious buffoon and thief. He goes by the name
of “Jockey,” and he has two companions of similar character, who
are known as “Ned” and “Tom.” These are represented as the Prince’s
associates. And to mark more distinctly the true object of the play,
which certainly was to bring the Puritans into ridicule, the other and
principal character is one Dericks, a name borne by one of the Marian
martyrs. This play was first acted before 1588, Tarleton dying in that
year, and it was the play which Shakespeare adapted. But an English
audience would be far less disposed to relish jests upon Protestant
martyrs after the Armada and the Papist conspiracies of Elizabeth’s
latter days, and Shakespeare made a change to suit the altered taste
of the day. Oldcastle and Dericks disappear: they are replaced, we may
say, by Falstaff and Bardolf. Both were historical personages, and
Shakespeare does them as much injustice as his predecessor had done to
the Lollard martyr. Bardolf went more than once as ambassador to France
in Henry the Fourth’s reign, and in the time of his successor he was
Lieutenant of Calais. Sir John Falstaff was a Knight of the Garter, a
general of distinction, and a man of undoubted honour. There is not a
shadow of reason for connecting either Bardolf or Falstaff with any
disreputable proceedings. Shakespeare seems to have taken their names
absolutely at random.

In the first part of _Henry the Fourth_, then, we see the Prince
associating with boon companions, and spending his days in riot, until
he is recalled to serious thoughts by his mission to take high command
in the army which his father is sending against the rebels in the north
and west; and finally doing away with the discredit that had fastened
itself on his good name by his gallant behaviour on the field of
Shrewsbury. Now let us examine the facts.

First, the situation may be briefly described. Henry the Fourth was
far from being safe on his newly won throne. Early in 1400 he had
discovered a plot against his life. The Kings of France and Scotland
had refused to recognise his title to the crown, and were even making
preparations for an invasion of England. A more immediate danger
also threatened him; Wales was in revolt. Here Owen Glendower, lineal
descendant of the Llewellyn who had been defeated and slain by Edward
the First, had been roused by private wrongs to assert the independence
of his nation. And it was here that we find the young Henry employed by
his father. That a boy so young--in the early part of 1400–1 he still
wanted some months of completing his fourteenth year--should be put in
a position of authority is remarkable; that the boy so trusted should
have been a profligate simply exceeds belief.

The young Prince was apparently taking an active part in the conduct of
affairs; in any case, he must have been on the spot, and not wasting
his time in London. He was summoned to attend a Council to be held
in London on August 15th, 1401. A month afterwards the rebellion in
Wales broke out afresh, and the Prince was probably again engaged in
active service. At least we find him in November with a small force
of twenty men-at-arms and forty archers, in respect of which he
received, by order of Council, the sum of one thousand pounds. In the
following year we find him acting on his own account. He addresses
(under date May 15th) a letter to the Privy Council, in which he gives
an account of his doings in Wales. Owen Glendower, it seems, had sent
him something like a challenge. He had gone, accordingly, to Owen’s
principal mansion, but had found no one there. Thence he had proceeded
to the Welshman’s seat at Glendourdy, and had burnt it, capturing at
the same time one of Owen’s chief men. The prisoner had offered five
hundred pounds for his ransom, but this was not accepted, and he was
put to death. Henry had afterwards marched into Merionethshire and
Powysland. This letter was written from Shrewsbury, and was followed by
another about a fortnight later, in which he describes himself as being
in great straits. His soldiers wanted to know when they would be paid;
unless he had some money sent, he could not remain where he was; he had
already pawned his jewels (_nos petitz joualx_). The castles of Harlech
and Lampadern must be relieved without delay. But if help were given,
things promised well for a suppression of the rebellion.

What reply the Prince received to these representations we do not
know. The rebellion was not suppressed then, nor for many years to
come. On June 25th something like a general levy was ordered, the
King addressing precepts to the Lieutenants of many English counties
by which it was enjoined that all persons liable to military service
should meet him at Lichfield and march with him against the Welsh
rebels. Similar documents were issued later in the year, in one
of which all persons liable to serve in the counties of Derby and
Shropshire were enjoined to meet “our very dear son, Henry, Prince of
Wales” at Chester on August 27th.

It is needless to follow the King’s proceedings in detail. His
resources were not equal to the demands made upon them. New dangers
started up in unexpected places, and he had to change his plans to
meet them. But on March 7th, 1403, we come to an important document.
It is an ordinance of the King in Council, given at Westminster. The
beginning of it runs thus:

  “The King to all whom it may concern, greeting. Know that, wishing
  to provide for the good government of the region of Wales, and
  of the Marches and parts adjacent thereto, and for resistance
  to the rebels who have contrary to their allegiance treasonably
  risen against us, and having full confidence in the fidelity and
  energy of our dearly beloved eldest son, Henry, Prince of Wales,
  we constitute the said Prince our Lieutenant in the said region of

Here then we find Henry, who was now about half-way through his
sixteenth year, appointed to the civil and military command of the most
disturbed part of the King’s dominions. About six weeks later the men
of Shropshire write to the Council complaining of the ravages of the
Welsh rebels, and praying that some men-at-arms and archers should be
sent to protect them till the Prince himself should come.

The King had now to meet a more formidable combination of enemies
than he had yet encountered. Henry Percy, eldest son of the Earl of
Northumberland, the Harry Hotspur of Shakespeare, had been a trusted
lieutenant of Henry. He had served in Wales against Glendower, and had
been employed both in negotiations with the Scotch and in military
action against them. He conceived himself to have been unjustly
treated, for reasons which do not concern our present purpose, and
to avenge his wrongs he formed an alliance with Owen Glendower and
with the Earl of Douglas on behalf of the King of Scotland. Glendower
was to invade Gloucestershire. To meet this danger the King issued
briefs, under date of June 16th, to the Lieutenants of Gloucestershire,
Shropshire, Worcestershire, and Herefordshire, directing that all
persons liable to serve should put themselves at the command of
his son, Henry, Prince of Wales. At the same time an attack on the
northern borders was threatened from Scotland, and the Percies, whose
disaffection was not yet known at Court, were commissioned to repel it.
The King himself marched northwards to assist them, and seems to have
been ignorant as late as July 10th of their real intentions. These,
however, became known to him a day or so after, for he issued briefs
to the Lieutenants of the counties, dated from Burton-on-Trent on July
16th, Lichfield on the 17th, and Westminster on the 18th, requiring
military assistance to repel the invasion of Henry Percy with the Welsh
rebels and “certain enemies of ours from Scotland” in his company.

Six days later than the date of the Westminster brief the battle of
Shrewsbury was fought. Prince Henry was on the field and bore himself
bravely, though we must not credit him with the great achievement which
Shakespeare attributes to him, of having slain Henry Percy in single
combat. A lad, still wanting some months of sixteen, could hardly have
vanquished a man of thirty, one of the bravest and most expert soldiers
of his time. Hotspur seems to have been killed by a chance arrow as
he was charging with characteristic impetuosity the royal forces. The
young Prince was himself wounded in the forehead by an arrow.

His father’s confidence in him was continued. Two days after the battle
he expresses his trust in the loyalty and prudent caution of his son,
Henry, Prince of Wales, and gives him full power to amnesty at his
discretion such persons concerned in the late rebellion as he might
think fit, in the county of Chester and in other places named.

Owen Glendower, who had not shared the defeat of the Percies at
Shrewsbury, still held out. In 1404 he assumed the title of Prince
of Wales. In the June of that year the Sheriff of Hereford, with
various gentlemen of the county, represented to the King that they
were suffering greatly from the ravages of the Welsh rebels. The
Prince was directed to go to their help, and on the 20th of the month
wrote to his father from Worcester, to which city he had removed his
headquarters. He thanks him for his kind letter written from Pontefract
five days before, and rejoices in the news it brought of his health and
prosperity, which are, he says, the greatest pleasure that can come
to him in the world. He had been taking measures for the defence of
the county of Hereford, which the Welsh rebels had been ravaging with
fire and sword, and he would do all he could to resist them and to
save England from their attacks. Another letter to the same effect was
addressed by him to the Council, and a second four days afterwards.

On August 30th the Council granted him three thousand marks for the
expenses of holding the castle of Denbigh and other strongholds in
North Wales, and suggested that he should remain for a certain time
on the borders of Herefordshire, and afterwards invade Wales. In a
document apparently belonging to the same time there is a list of
castles in North Wales which the Prince had kept at his own cost since
the commencement of the rebellion.

In March 1405 the Prince wrote to the King relating a victory which he
had won over the Welsh:

  “On Wednesday, the 11th day of this present month of March, the
  rebels in parties from Glamorgan, Morganoe, Usk, Netherwart, and
  Overwart were assembled to the number of eleven thousand by their
  own account. On the said 11th of March they burnt part of your
  town of Grosmont. Thereupon I sent my dear cousin Lord Talbot and
  others. To them there joined themselves your faithful and valiant
  knights, William Newport and John Greindel. And though they were
  but a small number, yet was it well seen that the victory is not
  in the multitude of the people but in the power of God.... By the
  aid of the Blessed Trinity your people held the field of battle
  and vanquished the said rebels, and slew of them, by one account
  eight hundred, since said one thousand.... No prisoners were taken
  save one, a great knight, whom I would have sent to you but that he
  cannot yet comfortably ride.... I pray God to keep you always in
  joy and honour, and to grant me that I may soon comfort you with
  other good news.”

In this year by prompt action, and still more by skilful diplomacy, the
King crushed a formidable insurrection that threatened his power in the
north. After executing the chiefs of the rising--Scrope, Archbishop of
York, and Mowbray, Earl Marshall--he turned his attention to Wales. If
he could crush Glendower he had practically rid himself of his enemies,
for he held in his power the heir to the Scottish throne. With his
father’s action in the north the Prince could have had nothing to do;
but we may be sure that he took a part in the Welsh campaign. Large as
was the force which Henry brought into the field, little or nothing was
accomplished. The Welshmen were driven from the plain country; but they
could not be touched in their mountain fastnesses. Indeed the weather
was so exceptionally bad that Glendower was believed to have secured
the aid of this powerful ally by his magical arts. Early in the autumn
the King returned to London, disbanding at the same time the greater
part of his forces, and leaving the command of operations, as before,
in the hands of the Prince of Wales.

It would be tedious to give all the details of Henry’s proceedings
that may be found in the public documents of the time. On the whole,
we get from these sources the picture of a vigorous young prince, who
must of course have been assisted by older counsellors, but who was
not a mere puppet in their hands. He is making head to the best of his
abilities and means against a formidable rebellion. He is much hampered
by want of money, and the King and the Council try to help him. As
time goes on, more means and more power are put into his hands. King,
Privy Council, and Parliament seem to be agreed in trusting him. The
King does not think it necessary to visit in person the region which he
had put into his son’s charge. More than once, after proclaiming his
purpose to take the field himself against the Welsh rebels, he changes
his mind, and goes elsewhere. The Council accept without hesitation
his recommendation of the Prince and his affairs to their care. When
Parliament is sitting, it votes him money for the purposes of his

The proceedings, however, in the first half of 1406 are so important
as bearing on the position of the Prince that they must be specially
mentioned. At some time in March or April the Privy Council held a
meeting, at which the succession of the Prince of Wales to the throne
was considered, as was also the subject of his lieutenancy in Wales,
and of his power to amnesty rebels who might give in their submission.
About the same time the House of Commons sent up an address to the
King, praying him to thank the Prince for his diligence in the
government of Wales, to which, it will be remembered, he had been
appointed three years before. This address is dated April 3rd. Two days
afterwards the King renewed the appointment of the Prince as Lieutenant
of Wales till November 11th. Special authority was conferred upon him
to admit rebels to grace on such terms as might approve themselves
to him and his counsellors. Before the period thus specified had
expired--_i.e._, on September 27th--provision was made for a further
tenure of his office.

In the interval between April and September the King’s health had begun
to fail so seriously that the question of settling the succession
became urgent. On April 26th he addressed two letters from Windsor to
the Council. In the first--written, it would seem, early in the day--he
tells them that he should not be able to fulfil his purpose of being
at Westminster on that day. Some ailment had attacked his leg, and he
was also suffering seriously from ague. Consequently his physicians
considered that it would be dangerous for him to travel on horseback.
However, he intended to be at Staines that night; from Staines he
would journey by water to London, where he hoped to be in the course
of three or four days. The second letter was written later in the day.
By that time his illness had so much increased that he had to give up
altogether the idea of travelling. The Council would have to go on with
public business without him. On June 7th the House of Commons voted an
address of thanks to the Prince, which was to be forwarded to him in
Wales. At the same time Parliament passed an Act declaring that the
succession to the throne was in the Prince of Wales and the heirs-male
of his body lawfully begotten; and failing these, to the other sons
of the King and their heirs in succession. Six months later this was
amended by another Act, which abolished the restriction to heirs-male.
This was done, of course, from considerations of general policy, but it
indicates a feeling of confidence in the Prince.

The proclamation of this Act bears date December 22nd. Before this
time the Prince had come to London, and this is positively the first
time that we have an intimation of his presence in the capital. His
name appears on the list of the persons attending the meeting of the
Privy Council in the afternoon of December 8th; but it is absent from
a list dated November 27th, and the Prince must therefore have been
sworn in between the two dates. He was present again at a meeting
held on January 30th, when the Great Seal was resigned by Thomas
Langley, Bishop of Durham, and handed to Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of
Canterbury. How much longer his visit to London lasted, we cannot say.
Probably he returned to the scene of his government when the season
for action in the field came on. At any rate by the early autumn of
the year he had gained considerable successes, having received the
submission of three chiefs, an event which was evidently thought to be
of considerable importance.

In a brief session of Parliament during the same year (October 20th
to November 21st) the Prince again received public thanks. A little
later in the year the King granted him certain property which had been
forfeited by the outlawry of sundry persons; and also reappointed him,
for the fourth time, his Lieutenant in Wales. He had now, it will be
remembered, completed his twentieth year. The Welsh appointment was
twice more renewed--on December 27th, 1407, and again on January 19th,
1409–10. Probably there would have been an impropriety, now that the
Prince had attained years of maturity, in handing over to any one else
the chief command in the principality from which he took his title.
But he seems to have had personally little to do with Welsh affairs
during the latter part of his father’s reign. The last record of his
presence in the country is a document, executed at Carmarthen Castle,
and bearing date September 23rd, 1408. At that time he had been five
years and a half in command. He had been so far unsuccessful in dealing
with the Welsh insurrection that Owen Glendower still held out, as
indeed he continued to do up to the day of his death. But the rebels
or patriots, according as we may choose to call them, were certainly
confined within narrow limits. The Welsh difficulty was no longer,
as it had been in the days before the battle of Shrewsbury, a danger
that threatened the throne of the Lancastrian princes; it had ceased
to be even a serious annoyance. Glendower still remained unsubdued
in his mountain fastnesses; but the rich plains of Herefordshire
and Worcestershire were no longer in fear of his incursions. So the
Prince’s Welsh campaigns were a success rather than, as is commonly
stated by historians, a failure. How much of this success was due
to his personal initiative it is, of course, impossible to say.
When he was first formally appointed to his office he was just nine
months younger than was the Black Prince at Crecy. Lads between
fifteen and sixteen are now-a-days considered too young even for the
responsibilities of a sixth form in a public school. In the England of
Edward and Henry’s time men came much earlier to their maturity. The
royal caste especially, accustomed from the very first to the realities
of power, learnt very soon to act for themselves. The young Prince is
probably entitled to a very considerable share of whatever credit may
attach during the time of his active lieutenancy to the management of
Welsh affairs.



The first part of Henry’s public life, the period of his lieutenancy
of Wales and the Welsh border, has now been dealt with. We may pass on
to the second, which may be roughly described as extending from the
beginning of 1409 up to his accession to the throne. On February 28th,
1408–9, he was appointed Constable of Dover Castle and Keeper of the
Cinque Ports. After this we find no mention of his personal presence
in Wales, though, as has been mentioned, he continued to hold the
office of Lieutenant of that principality. He seems to have resided
chiefly in London or at the seat of his new duties. This, then, seems a
convenient opportunity of discussing the famous story of his insolent
behaviour to the Chief Justice, his punishment, and his submission.
Shakespeare, indeed, would seem to place the incident in the first
period of the Prince’s life. In the first act of the second part of
_Henry the Fourth_, Falstaff’s page says to his master, when the Chief
Justice enters, “Here comes the nobleman who committed the Prince for
striking him about Bardolph.” This, therefore, puts it back to some
time before the battle of Shrewsbury, which, it will be remembered, is
supposed to have been fought just before the beginning of the second
drama. This is manifestly impossible. If there were nothing else to
disprove it--and the Prince’s age, barely fifteen, would be itself
sufficient--there is the fact that he resided continuously in Wales.
The incident, if it be a fact, must be assigned to the time when Henry
was living in or near London.

We may notice, before proceeding, the curious carelessness in the
great dramatist which makes the Prince strike the Chief Justice “about
Bardolph.” Bardolph is one of the boon companions of Falstaff. The
Prince never expresses anything but contempt for him.

A few lines from the famous scene may be quoted. The King, then newly
seated on the throne, asks the Chief Justice, who has come to offer his

   “How might a prince of my great hopes forget
    So great indignities you laid upon me?
    What! rate, rebuke, and roughly send to prison
    The immediate heir of England!”

And then, after hearing the defence, he goes on:

   “You are right, justice, and you weigh this well;
    Therefore still bear the balance and the sword:
    And I do wish your honours may increase,
    Till you do live to see a son of mine
    Offend you and obey you, as I did.
    So shall I live to speak my father’s words:
    _Happy am I, that have a man so bold,
    That dares do justice on my proper son;
    And not less happy, having such a son,
    That would deliver up his greatness so
    Into the hands of justice._”

No more picturesque incident, it must be allowed, has ever been used
to “point a moral or adorn a tale.” We cannot wonder that it has
become one of the commonplaces of history, or of what passes as
history. What, then, is the foundation of the story; or, if it has no
foundation, what is its origin?

It appears for the first time in _The Boke named the Governour_ of Sir
Thomas Elyot, a philosophico-political treatise, published in 1531. The
story as he tells it runs thus:

  “The most renowned Prince, King Henry the Fifth, late King of
  England, during the life of his father was noted to be fierce
  and of wanton courage. It happened that one of his servants whom
  he well favoured, for felony by him committed, was arraigned at
  the King’s Bench; whereof he being advertised, and incensed by
  light persons about him, in furious rage came hastily to the bar,
  where his servant stood as a prisoner, and commanded him to be
  ungyved and set at liberty, whereat all men were abashed, except
  the Chief Justice, who humbly exhorted the Prince to be contented
  that his servant might be ordered according to the ancient laws
  of the realm, or if he would have him saved from the rigour of
  the laws, that he should obtain, if he might, of the King, his
  father, his gracious pardon; whereby no law or justice should be
  derogate. With which answer the Prince nothing appeased, but rather
  more inflamed, endeavoured himself to take away his servant. The
  judge, considering the perilous example and inconvenience that
  might thereby ensue, with a valiant spirit and courage commanded
  the Prince upon his allegiance to leave the prisoner and depart
  his way. With which commandment the Prince, being set all in a
  fury, all chafed, and in a terrible manner, came up to the place
  of judgment--men thinking that he would have slain the judge, or
  have done to him some damage; but the judge sitting still, without
  moving, declaring the majesty of the King’s place of judgment,
  and with an assured and bold countenance made to the Prince these
  words following:--‘Sir, remember yourself; I keep here the place
  of the King, your sovereign lord and father, to whom ye owe double
  obedience, wherefore, eftsoons in his name, I charge you desist
  of your wilfulness and unlawful entry here, and from henceforth
  give good example to those which hereafter shall be your proper
  subjects. And now for your contempt and disobedience go you to the
  prison of the King’s Bench, whereunto I commit you; and remain ye
  there prisoner until the pleasure of the King, your father, be
  further known.’ With which words being abashed, and also wondering
  at the marvellous gravity of that worshipful Justice, the noble
  Prince, laying his weapon apart, doing reverence, departed and went
  to the King’s Bench, as he was commanded. Whereat his servants
  disdaining, came and showed to the King all the whole affair.
  Whereat he awhile studying, after as a man all ravished with
  gladness, holding his eyes and hands up towards heaven, abraided,
  saying with a loud voice, ‘O merciful God, how much am I, above all
  other men, bound to your infinite goodness; specially for that ye
  have given me a judge who feareth not to minister justice, and also
  a son who can suffer semblably and obey justice?’”

This narrative is circumstantial enough, though it gives no note of
time. On what foundation, then, does it rest, for we can hardly suppose
it to be a pure invention? There certainly appears to have been a
tradition which attributes some such misconduct to the Prince. Some
few years after the appearance of Sir Thomas Elyot’s book, one Robert
Redman or Redmayne wrote a book which he entitled _Historia Henrici
Quinti_. He thus expresses himself:

  “He was removed from the Council (_Senatus_), and access to
  the Court was forbidden to him. His reputation was checked in
  mid-course, because he struck the Chief Justice, whose function it
  was to solve suits and decide causes, when the said Justice had
  committed to prison one from whose companionship Henry derived a
  singular pleasure.”

Here the offence is the same, but the punishment is different. Of
the alleged removal of the Prince from the Council it will be more
convenient to speak hereafter.

Of Richard Redman we know nothing beyond what may be learnt from the
internal evidence of his chronicle, and this amounts to little more
than that he was a scholar well versed in Latin literature; that he was
inclined to the Reformed opinions; and that he wrote somewhat earlier
than the middle of the sixteenth century. It seems, however, that there
was a Redman who was present at the battle of Agincourt, and who on
one occasion was joined in a commission with Gascoigne, the hero of
the story. It has been suggested that this Redman was an ancestor of
the chronicler, and that he derived his story from a tradition current
in his family. Of this we can only say that it is not impossible, not
forgetting, however, that such a tradition may indeed have existed and
yet not have been true.

Finally, Thomas Hardyng tells us that the punishment of removal from
the Council was inflicted upon the Prince by the King, but does not
mention the offence which was thus visited. Hardyng was a contemporary;
indeed, as he was born 1378, he was very nearly of the same age as
Henry. So far his testimony is valuable, though his account of the
incident seems to have been written quite late in life. But, as the
Prince’s offence is not specified, it has but a very indirect bearing
on the question.

On the other hand, an examination of the records of the Court of the
King’s Bench shows that there is no entry to be found in them of any
committal of the Prince. It has been pointed out that the summary
committal to prison of an offender, as described by Elyot, was not the
course of proceeding at the time. This, however, may be waived. The
Prince may have been tried by a jury impanelled on the spot, and sent
to prison when found guilty by them; and for this course of proceeding
a more dramatically effective committal by the presiding judge may have
been substituted. But the incident must, one would think, have been
recorded in one way or another, and the absolute silence of the rolls
and year-books of the Court affords a strong presumption that nothing
of the kind ever occurred.

But on looking back to the records of an earlier time, we find that on
one occasion a Prince of Wales had been guilty of contempt of Court and
had been punished for it by his father. In the thirty-fourth year of
Edward the First, one William de Breora, having had judgment pronounced
against him by Roger de Hegham, one of the Barons of the Exchequer,
“climbed in contemptuous fashion upon the bar, and with grave and
bitter words found fault with the said judgment and also insulted the
said Roger as he was leaving the Court.” The Court proceeded to punish
him for this offence, and rested its action on what had recently been
done in a similar case.

  “Such acts,” it says, “namely, contempt and disobedience done to
  the servants of our Lord King, as to the King himself and his
  Court, are exceedingly odious. This was lately manifested when the
  said King removed his eldest and dearly beloved son, Edward, Prince
  of Wales, from his house for nearly the space of half-a-year,
  because he had spoken gross and bitter words to a servant of the
  King; nor would he suffer him to come into his presence till he had
  satisfied the aforesaid servant of the King in the matter of his

There can, I think, be little doubt that we have here the germs of
the story which Shakespeare afterwards so effectively used. It has
been acutely pointed out that several phrases in Elyot’s narrative
have the appearance of having been translated from the Latin; and
the theory is that some chronicler compounded the various incidents
as they had occurred or were supposed to have occurred, and combined
them with the story which is told in the _Governour_, and which has
been immortalised by Shakespeare. It should, perhaps, be added that
Gascoigne had shown in a very striking way his independence of spirit.
After the suppression of the northern insurrection in 1405, the King
directed him to pronounce sentence of death on the two leaders, Richard
Scrope, Archbishop of York, and Thomas Mowbray, Earl Marshall, who
had been captured and probably tried and condemned by some kind of
court-martial. Gascoigne, who was Chief Justice (he had been appointed
to the office in November 1400), refused to do so. He declared that
as to the Archbishop, neither the King nor any of the King’s subjects
could lawfully put him to death; as to the Earl Marshall, he had the
right to be tried by his peers. Independence in a judge has always been
especially dear to Englishmen. To a monkish historian--and almost all
the historians of the time were monks--such independence could not show
itself in a more praiseworthy fashion than in asserting the exemption
of ecclesiastical persons from the jurisdiction of lay courts.
Gascoigne, then, would be a genuine hero, and, as with other genuine
heroes, a great amount of myth may well have grown up about his true

It only remains to examine the conclusion of the legend, as Shakespeare
tells it. The young King is there represented as assuring him of his
favour, and promising to continue him in office.

We find him acting as a judge in Hilary term 1413 (January and
February). Henry the Fourth died on March 20th. His successor summoned
a new Parliament by writ bearing date the 23rd day of that month, and
among the persons summoned was William Gascoigne. But on March 29th
William Hankford, a puisne judge of the Common Pleas, was appointed to
Gascoigne’s office. On July 7th of the same year there is recorded a
payment made to him, as late Chief Justice, on account of salary and
annuity. It is quite possible that he voluntarily resigned his office.
We do not exactly know his age, but he must have been advanced in
years. He had been practising as an advocate as early as the year 1374,
which may well throw back his birth as far as 1340. In this case he
would be seventy-three at Henry’s accession, and seventy-three meant
much more then than it does now. He died in 1419. It may be mentioned
that in 1414 a royal warrant gave him for life four bucks and four does
out of the forest of Pontefract. On the whole, the evidence in the
matter has an absolutely neutral effect. It disproves, indeed, anything
like a display of magnanimity on Henry’s part; but then there does not
seem to have been any occasion for such magnanimity. Gascoigne may have
been removed from his office, a common enough practice in the days when
such offices were held at the royal pleasure, or he may have resigned.
That he was continued in his office by the young King is certainly a
fiction. There can be little doubt that the same may be said of the
whole story.



The appointment of the Prince in February 1408–9 to the office of
Constable of Dover and Keeper of the Cinque Ports has already been
mentioned. A little more than a year afterwards--that is, on March
18th, 1409–10--the King, having the “fullest confidence in the
circumspection and fidelity of his most dear son, Henry, Prince of
Wales,” appointed him for the space of twelve years Captain of the town
of Calais. Thenceforward his time was divided between his duties at
these places and in London, where he is found in frequent attendance
at Councils. In the Acts of the Privy Council and other records there
is preserved a continuous history of his public life. The details are
of little or no importance; but the impression left by the whole is
that the Prince was taking a leading part in the administration of
affairs, foreign and domestic. The theory of the Constitution, as it
is now understood and carried into practice, excludes the possibility
of any such action on the part of the heir-apparent to the throne.
The system on which the machine is worked is a government by party,
and from party it is held to be necessary that he should stand aloof.
The Sovereign, though the powers assigned to him by the Constitution
have virtually fallen into abeyance, still has a very considerable
share in the management of affairs; but the functions of the Prince
of Wales are purely social. Things were very different in the days of
personal government. The King’s Ministers were not the representatives
of the majority in Parliament, but friends and counsellors of his
own choice, often, of course, his own kinsmen. Edward the First had
been the support of his feeble father, and the Third Edward had had
an able lieutenant in the Black Prince. All that is recorded in
authentic documents about Prince Henry tends to make us believe that
his behaviour as successor to the crown resembled that of those great
predecessors in his place. There is nothing, on the other hand, to
suggest a comparison with the dissolute heir of the first Edward, whose
frivolous conduct and unseemly intimacies have nevertheless, by some
strange caprice of tradition, been transferred to our hero.

It will be sufficient to give a few only of the many occasions on which
the Prince’s name is mentioned. It will be seen that they indicate,
more or less plainly, the confidence and affection existing between him
and his father.

To be in command both at Dover and Calais, while still retaining the
lieutenantship of Wales, was manifestly to be in a position of great
trust. Not less significant in another way was his appointment (dated
February 1st, 1408–9) as guardian of the young Earl of March and his
brother, two most important persons as representing a rival claim to
the throne. The general opinion of his character may be indicated by
the fact that when, in compliance with a request from the Commons,
the Lords before appointed to be of the King’s Council were again
declared, all of them took the oath to do justice excepting the Prince
of Wales, who for his rank was excused that ceremony.

In the course of the year 1411 we find grants of money made to the
Prince for operations to be carried on at Calais and for the defence
of Wales. In the October of that year the King makes him a present of
twenty hogsheads of red wine from Gascony. It should be mentioned that
in the previous year he had received from the King a grant for life of
the palace of Coldharbour, in the parish of Hayes in Middlesex.

On November 2nd in this year Parliament met and sat for six weeks. In
the course of the session the Speaker, in the name of the Commons,
prayed the King to thank the Prince and the other Lords of the Council
for their great labour and diligence, and declared the opinion of
the House that the said Lords had done their duty, according to
their promise, well and loyally. The Prince and his colleagues were
present, and kneeling declared by the mouth of the Prince that they had
endeavoured so to act. Thereupon the King thanked them. On the last
day of the Parliament the Speaker recommended the Queen, the Prince,
and the King’s younger son to the King, and asked for the advancement
of their estates. To this recommendation the King returned the usual
gracious answer.

There is nothing particularly remarkable in these proceedings; but they
indicate the existence of harmony and good feeling between the King,
his heir, and the House of Commons, and there is certainly nothing to
support the allegations that have now to be considered.

In a chronicle the date of which cannot be fixed, but which was
certainly not contemporary with the events which it professes to
narrate, it is stated that in the Parliament of 1411 the Prince desired
of the King that he should resign the kingdom, as being incapable by
reason of ill-health of performing its duties, that the King refused to
do so, and that thereupon the Prince and his counsellors withdrew from
the Parliament.

In another chronicle, also of uncertain date, written by a monk of the
Abbey of Malmsbury, it is stated that in the thirteenth year of King
Henry the Fourth “a convention was made between Henry Beaufort, Bishop
of Winchester, and almost all the Lords that one of them should speak
to the King, desiring that he should resign the crown and permit his
eldest son to be crowned, seeing that he was so horribly afflicted by
leprosy; and that this being told to the King, he, being unwilling so
to resign his crown, by the advice of some of his Lords rode through a
great part of England, notwithstanding the said leprosy.”

All the historical confirmation of this allegation that exists lies
in the fact that sixteen years afterwards the Bishop, being on his
trial for high treason, was accused of having stirred up the King,
when Prince of Wales, to endeavour to bring about the resignation of
his father. No evidence was offered in support of the charge, and the
Bishop was acquitted. This acquittal is not a conclusive proof of the
prelate’s innocence, for the trial was a political move on the part of
the faction opposed to him, and the result would naturally follow the
event of the struggle. The charge must have represented some kind of
popular belief. It is probable, or at least not impossible, that at
some time during these two years of Henry the Fourth’s life there was a
feeling that the functions of government were not efficiently performed
by him, and that they might with advantage be handed over to his heir.
The Prince may have shared this feeling, but there is nothing to prove
that he did. In the absence of all evidence we may conclude that he did
not show it by any overt act.

One part of the story is indeed conclusively disproved by testimony
that cannot be gainsaid. The King did not ride over a great part of
England to show his people that he was not disabled by the leprosy. We
know that on June 12th, 1411, he was at the Abbey of Stratford, that he
returned thence to his palace at Westminster on that day, and that he
was never afterwards absent for a whole day from that residence.

In a proclamation dated February 3rd, 1411–12, the King addresses his
heir as “his most dear son, Henry, Prince of Wales.” The language is
formal; but, so far as it goes, it indicates continued confidence and
affection on the part of the King. This, it will be observed, was a
few weeks after the session of Parliament in which, as is alleged, the
Prince endeavoured to oust his father from power.

One piece of contemporary evidence, however, must not be neglected.
Monstrelet writes thus (i. 101):

  “He (Henry IV) was so sorely oppressed at the latter end of his
  sickness, that those who attended him, not perceiving him to
  breathe, concluded that he was dead, and covered his face with a
  cloth. It was the custom in that country, whenever the King was
  ill, to place the royal crown on a cushion beside his bed, and for
  his successor to take it at his death. The Prince of Wales, being
  informed by the attendants that his father was dead, had carried
  away the crown; but, shortly after, the King uttered a groan,
  and his face was uncovered, when, on looking for the crown, he
  asked what had become of it? His attendants replied that ‘my lord
  the Prince had taken it away.’ He bade them send for the Prince,
  and, at his entrance, the King asked him why he had carried away
  the crown. ‘My lord,’ answered the Prince, ‘your attendants here
  present affirmed to me that you were dead; and as your crown and
  kingdom belong to me as your eldest son, after your decease, I
  had taken it away.’ The King gave a deep sigh, and said, ‘My fair
  son, what right have you to it? for you well know I had none.’ ‘My
  lord,’ replied the Prince, ‘as you have held it by the right of
  your sword, it is my intent to hold and defend it the same during
  my life,’ The King answered, ‘Well, act as you see best; I leave
  all things to God, and pray that He will have mercy on me.’”

Shakespeare has used the story for the scene with which every one is
familiar; but he has used it in a different sense from that in which
it is told. The dramatist’s purpose was to heighten the contrast
between the Prince, reckless, selfish, greedy of power, and the King,
changed by his elevation into a model of wisdom, thoughtfulness, and
moderation. The chronicler, who is manifestly a Yorkist partisan,
introduces it to enforce the dying King’s supposed confession of his
wrongful tenure of the crown. There is no hint of the father charging
the son with a greedy grasping at power. Dr. Lingard seems right in
suggesting that the story was a fiction of the partisans of the Earl of
March. It has a very improbable look, and is supported by nothing that
we know of the manner of the King’s death.

There remains, however, a certain residuum of evidence which makes
it not altogether improbable that during the last year of Henry the
Fourth’s life there was some disturbance of the harmony between him
and his eldest son.

Thomas Hardyng wrote in 1465 a metrical life of Henry the Fifth, which
is known as _Versus Rhythmici in laudem Henrici Quinti_. In this we
find the following lines:

   “The King discharged the Prince from his counsail,
    And set my lord Sir Thomas in his stead,
    Chief of the council for the King’s more avail;
    For which the Prince, of wrath and wilful head,
    Again him made debate and froward tread,
    With whom the King took part and held the field,
    To time the Prince unto the King him yield.”

Hardyng was born in 1378, and he must therefore have been in very
advanced age when he wrote his _Versus Rhythmici_. More than half a
century, too, had passed since the time of which he was writing. These
considerations, however, scarcely impair the value of his testimony.
The memory of an old man is commonly tenacious of things that belong
to his early life; nor can we, on the other hand, find a probable
origin for so circumstantial a story in the fancies of dotage. There is
possibly more weight in the argument that there is no mention of any
such occurrence in the chronicle which Hardyng wrote some thirty years
before the composition of his _Versus Rhythmici_. But the chronicle was
written while the house of Lancaster was still in undisputed possession
of the throne, and, being doubtless intended for the perusal of Henry
the Sixth, who must have been about attaining his majority when it was
finished; it is quite possible that the writer may have suppressed the
mention of a family quarrel. But in later times he attached himself to
the house of York, and his chronicle is supposed to have been rewritten
at the instance of Richard, Duke of York, killed at Wakefield. In
1465 Edward the Fourth was, to all appearance, firmly seated on the
throne. Praises of a great national hero, such as was Henry the Fifth,
would not be unwelcome; but there would be no motive for tenderness
in writing the family history. It must be allowed that, on the whole,
Hardyng’s testimony has a certain weight.

Then comes the question--Is it confirmed by any other evidence?
There is an entry in the Pell Rolls, under the date February 18th,
1411–12, which records the payment to the Prince of a thousand marks
in consideration of the labours, costs, and charges sustained by him
“quo tempore fuit de consilio ipsius Domini Regis.” The words may mean,
according to the sense which we may put on _fuit_, “for the time during
which he _has been_ of the King’s Council” or “for the time during
which _he was_,” etc. It has been argued that if the latter sense had
been intended _erat_ would have been used instead of _fuit_. It may be
allowed that the signification of _erat_ would not have been ambiguous.
It would have meant that he was at some former time and was not at the
time of writing. But _fuit_ may mean the same. It is often used as
a most emphatic præterite, as in the famous “_fuimus_ Troes, _fuit_
Ilium.” The Prince, too, it must be remembered, had been a member
of the Council at this time for more than eleven years. If he still
retained his seat in it, it is somewhat strange that now for the first
time the payment of compensation for his expenses and service appears.
The first impression left by the entry certainly is that the thousand
marks were a _solacium_ paid to him on ceasing to belong to it.[3]

A noticeable omission occurs in a writ issued on June 11th, 1412--that
is, about four months after the entry just discussed. The Prince is
described, without any affectionate or complimentary epithet, as the
“Captain of Calais.” It is possible that this omission may have been
unintentional: there are instances in which it occurs where it is
impossible to suppose that any kind of displeasure or angry feeling is
implied; and we certainly find an entry of May 1st in the same year in
which the usual terms of affection are employed.

If the Prince was removed from the Council or retired from it
voluntarily, his absence cannot have lasted long. His supposed
successor or substitute, Thomas, Duke of Clarence, left England to
take the command of the English forces in Aquitaine in July 1412, nor
did he return to this country till after his father’s death. It is
noticeable that there is no trace of the resentment which an elder
brother unjustly dispossessed might be supposed to feel for him who
had supplanted him. Henry, when he became king, retained the Duke of
Clarence in his command. In July a Council was held at which the means
of raising money for the expenses of the King, and for a force which
was apparently about to be got together to serve under the Prince,
were discussed. In the September of the same year the Prince, if we
may trust the author of the _Chronicle of London_, actually attended
a Council. Whether this be the case or no, it is certain that about
this time we find the Council deliberating about matters which closely
concerned the Prince’s character, and coming to a conclusion highly
favourable to him. He had been accused, it would seem, of keeping back
moneys that he had received for the payment of his soldiers. He had
now sent in two rolls of paper, giving particulars of his expenditure,
and the Council accordingly directed the issue of letters under the
Privy Seal which should set forth the true state of the case. A further
order was made at the same sitting of the Council for the payment
of a considerable sum of money on account of the wages of certain
men-at-arms who were stationed under the Prince’s command in Wales.
Very similar entries, which it is needless to give, are found under
date October 21st.

If, then, there was any disagreement between the King and his eldest
son, it must probably be referred to the earlier part of 1412. It is
easy to make conjectures about the cause, for indeed several causes are
possible or even probable, but difficult to find reasons for preferring
one conjecture to another. There may have been the ordinary jealousy
that is found so often between the possessor and the heir of power.
The elder Henry’s capacity may have begun to fail him, as his health
certainly failed, during the last years of his life. Dissatisfaction on
the side of the vigorous successor to the throne and suspicion on that
of its enfeebled holder would naturally follow. And the young Henry may
well have felt some personal annoyance at the tortuous policy which his
father persisted in following in French affairs. The King made a treaty
with the King of France in December 1410. No sooner was it proclaimed
than in the following March he began to negotiate with the Duke of
Burgundy, and concluded a truce with him in May. In the following year
an alliance, offensive and defensive, was made with the French Princes
who were acting on behalf of the then disabled King; and again, a month
after this, another treaty was concluded with the Duke of Burgundy.
The affairs of the Prince himself were one of the subjects dealt with
in these negotiations. Henry the Fourth was eager in the extreme to
strengthen his position by a matrimonial alliance with a royal family
of undoubted title. It was now a daughter of the French King, and now a
daughter of the Duke of Burgundy, who seemed to him a desirable bride
for the heir to his crown; and it is just possible that the young man,
who was quite capable of being resolute in such matters, did not wholly
approve of the diplomacy by which his father sought to dispose of him
in marriage.

It is possible that a curious story, previously referred to as bearing
on the question of Henry’s possible residence at Oxford, may belong to
this time of estrangement. It was on a New Year’s Day--the New Year’s
Day of 1411–12, if this conjecture be correct--that the Prince, finding
that his enemies had slandered him to his father, came to Westminster
Hall. Dressed, according to one version, in his old student’s gown,
with the needle and thread, still yearly presented to the members of
Eglesfield’s foundation, stuck in its collar, he advanced, leaving his
attendants clustered round the coal fire in the middle of the hall,
to the upper end where the King sat with his immediate attendants.
Saluting his father he begged for a private audience, and the King,
who was unable to walk, was carried into another room. Then the Prince
fell on his knees, and drawing his dagger from its sheath presented it
to his father, and begged him to plunge it into his heart if he thought
that there could be found there any feelings but those of affection and
loyalty. The chronicler Otterbourne tells a somewhat similar story, but
refers it to the June of this same year.

Another charge that has been brought against Henry may be traced in
the first place to John Stow, whose _Summary of the Chronicles of
England_ was published in 1570, and through him to Robert Fabyan, whose
_Chronicle_ was probably written early in the sixteenth century. Stow

  “He (the Prince) lived somewhat insolently, insomuch that while
  his father lived, being accompanied with some of his young lords
  and gentlemen, he would wait in disguised array for his own
  receivers and distress them of their money, and sometimes at such
  enterprises both he and his companions were sorely beaten; and when
  his receivers made to him their complaints how they were robbed in
  their coming to him, he would give them their discharge of so much
  money as they had lost, and besides that they should not depart
  from him without great rewards for their trouble and vexation,
  especially they should be rewarded that best had resisted him and
  his company, and of whom he had received the greatest and most

Of Fabyan it is only necessary to say that he does not give any such
details, but says generally that the “King, before the death of his
father, applied himself unto all vice and insolency, and drew unto
him violent and wildly-disposed persons.” Stow, therefore, it will
be seen, improved upon Fabyan. Recent writers have improved upon Stow
by finding a cause for these lawless proceedings in Henry’s grinding
poverty. Poverty was doubtless the prevailing condition of both
father and son; but the King was as liberal to his heir as his means
permitted. The Prince had often, it is clear, money enough to advance
his soldiers’ pay, for we hear of sums repaid him on this account. The
story may be dismissed as a fable, or, if it has any foundation at all,
as the exaggerated report of a youthful freak.

A still more baseless invention is that the Prince and his wild
companions indulged in various extravagant doings at his manor of
Cheylesmore, near Coventry, and that on one occasion he and they were
taken into custody by the Mayor of Coventry. The legend cannot, it
seems, be traced beyond the latter part of the seventeenth century.

The other charges against Henry’s character may be more conveniently
considered in the next chapter.



In December 1413 the King, whose health had been failing for some
years, was dangerously ill. He was then at his palace at Eltham, and
for a while, says Walsingham, he seemed to be dead. But he recovered,
and kept Christmas with such festivity as he might. In the following
March he was again attacked as he was praying in the Confessor’s Chapel
at Westminster Abbey. His attendants carried him into the Abbot’s
house, where he shortly afterwards expired. One of his biographers
tells us that the dying man called his successor to his side and
advised him to fear God, to choose an honest confessor, to be diligent
in his duty as a king, and to pay his (the speaker’s) debts. The speech
has the appearance of the appropriate orations which historians were
accustomed to put into the mouth of their characters. If, as seems
likely, the cause of death was apoplexy, it is probable that he never
recovered consciousness.

The King died on March 20th. Parliament had been prorogued to the
24th of the month. It was _ipso facto_ dissolved by the demise of the
Crown; but the prelates, peers, and representatives of the Commons
who had been summoned to it assembled in an informal manner, and for
the first time in English history, without waiting for the solemnities
of coronation, spontaneously offered homage to their new Sovereign,
though at the same time taking care to prevent their action from being
afterwards made into a precedent.

The young Henry’s accession to the throne is said to have been the
occasion of a sudden change which converted a reckless and profligate
youth into a sober God-fearing man. The contemporary evidence for this
assertion comes from two sources--Thomas Walsingham, one of the long
line of writers who formed the historical school of St. Alban’s, and
Thomas Elmham, who was then a monk of Canterbury and afterwards became
one of Henry’s chaplains. Elmham writes:

  “He was in the days of his youth a diligent follower of idle
  practices, much given to instruments of music, and one who, loosing
  the reins of modesty, though zealously serving Mars, yet fired
  with the torches of Venus herself, and, in the intervals of his
  brave deeds as a soldier, wont to occupy himself with the other
  extravagances that attend the days of undisciplined youth.”

And after treating of the death of the King he goes on to put a
confession of sin into the mouth of the Prince. Strong as are the
expressions, they are nothing more than what are uttered day after day
by worshippers whom neither the world nor their own conscience accuses
of any heinous crime. Further on we read:

  “After he had spent the day in wailing and groaning, so soon as
  the shades of night covered the earth, the weeping Prince, taking
  advantage of the darkness, secretly visited a certain recluse of
  holy life at Westminster; and laying bare to him the secret sins
  of his whole life, was washed in the laver of true repentance, and
  receiving the antidote of absolution against the poison that he
  had before swallowed, so put off the mantle of vice and returned
  decently adorned with the cloak of virtue. Thus a barren willow was
  changed into a fruitful olive, a Cocytus into an Euphrates, a Paris
  into a Hippolytus, the left into the right, by a happy miracle.”

Hardyng, Walsingham, and Otterbourne all use language to the same
effect; and finally we have the testimony of the Italian who
wrote under the pseudonym of Titus Livius. He was not strictly a
contemporary; but he seems to have been in the service of Humphrey of
Gloucester, the King’s brother, and some weight must be given to his
words. They are, it will be seen, little more than another version,
couched in less extravagant language, of the chronicle of Elmham, and
run thus:

  “Wherefore he was said by his father and by the royal council to
  be especially dear to the said King, although his good report was
  damaged by certain blame cast upon him by some in this matter--in
  that he took great pleasure in music, and followed in moderation
  (_mediocriter_) the pleasures of love and war, and other things
  which the licence of a soldier’s life is wont to permit, so long
  as his father lived.... While King Henry was yet dying, reflecting
  that he was about to come to the kingdom, he called unto him a
  priest, a monk of most virtuous life, and confessing to him his
  past errors, radically amended his life and manners in such fashion
  that no occasion of wantonness (_lasciviæ_) was ever afterwards
  found in him.”

There is nothing said, it will be observed, about loose and vicious
companions whom the young King banished from his presence as soon as
he felt the responsibilities of power. It is scarcely conclusive,
perhaps, to show that the officers of his household during the days
when he stood next to the throne were persons of respectable character.
The same might be said of other heirs-apparent who yet have been
undoubtedly profligate. The associates of a young prince’s private life
are not necessarily his chamberlain, the treasurer of his household, or
other dignified officials. But there is absolutely no evidence to show
that Henry was accustomed to the society of vicious and disreputable
companions. His intimacy with Oldcastle, of which we shall have
occasion to speak hereafter, certainly could not be so described.

On the other hand, we cannot wholly disregard the contemporary evidence
(for all other has been left out of the account) which attributes
to him a certain laxity of life during the years that preceded his
accession to the throne. Such a laxity is only too probable in a
young prince. The temptations to which the young kinsmen of the ruler
are exposed, before they feel the responsibilities of power, are the
weak point of the system of hereditary monarchy. It would have been
scarcely indeed a miracle, but certainly a most uncommon experience, if
Henry had passed through them altogether unscathed. But the language
in which the errors of his youth are described may easily have been
exaggerated. And this exaggeration may have been partly at least due to
Henry himself. Those who read the confessions and self-reproaches of
John Bunyan might easily believe him to have been guilty of excesses
into which he did not really fall. Henry had something of the same
devout temper, and may, it is at least probable, have used language
about himself that leaves a too unfavourable impression of his conduct.
That he was no idler, wasting his time and strength in riotous excess,
but on the contrary a vigorous and energetic youth, even precociously
distinguished as a soldier and statesman, is abundantly clear. He was
trusted by the King and the King’s counsellors; the nation which had
watched his career for more than ten years welcomed his accession, not
with the doubtful hope that would be extended to a profligate promising
reform, but with an enthusiasm of confidence and joy. And yet he may
have been conscious to himself of transgressions in the past of which
others took little or no account, but for which the fervour of his
reception by his people might have made him feel a keener reproach.
With this we may leave the subject.

The young King was crowned on April 10th, the Sunday before Easter,
in the midst, as Walsingham tells us, of a great snowstorm, from
which the people drew various auguries, favourable or unfavourable,
of the character of the future reign. Meanwhile a new Parliament had
been summoned to meet on May 15th. The Commons presented a number of
petitions to the King, praying for the removal of grievances. It is
impossible to judge of the justice or injustice of these complaints,
and of the King’s attitude with regard to them; but it is abundantly
clear that he had a will of his own, and a definite determination to
maintain his prerogative. Certain malpractices in the ecclesiastical
courts were, he promised, to be corrected: if the bishops failed in
their duty he would act himself. But a request that the knights and
burgesses summoned to Parliament might be allowed their expenses, met
with the guarded answer that it should be done if a precedent could
be found. To a petition for an extensive process of disforesting it
was replied that such as had just complaints against the charters of
the forests should be heard. Requests for the mitigation of the law
of deodand[4] and for a concession of certain freedoms in trade were

Henry’s generosity of temper, or at least his confidence in his
position, a frame of mind which often leads to the same course of
action, was shown by his treatment of those whom a meaner or weaker
prince might have regarded as rivals or enemies. The young Earl of
March, who was still regarded by some as the rightful heir to the
crown, was released from imprisonment to which the suspicious fears of
the deceased King had condemned him. Henry had been the guardian of
the young man’s estates, and seems to have discharged the trust with
fidelity. The Earl repaid him with affection, and, as will be seen,
when a critical occasion came, with loyalty.

Another hereditary enemy was treated in the same generous fashion.
The heir of the Percies, son of the Hotspur who fell on the field of
Shrewsbury, had been carried by his grandfather into Scotland. Henry,
in the second year of his reign, restored him to his title and estates.

Finally, what may be called a reparation was made to the memory of the
prince whom Henry’s father had dispossessed. Richard had been buried
almost secretly at Langley, in the Church of the Preaching Friars.
His body was now removed to London, and buried in royal style in the
Abbey of Westminster; “not,” says Walsingham, “without great expense
on the part of the King, who now confessed that he owed him the same
respect that he did to his own natural father.” At the same time the
King provided that “four tapers should burn day and night about his
grave while the world endureth;” once a week a _dirige_ was to be
chanted, and on the next day a requiem. After a mass a distribution was
to be made of eleven shillings and eightpence; while on the _obit_, or
anniversary of death, as much as twenty pounds was to be given away.

Thus reconciled to the enemies, living or dead, of his house, Henry
could address himself with good conscience and hope to the work of his



A famous scene in _Henry the Fifth_ represents two English prelates
consulting together how they may best put aside the imminent demand
of the Commons for a secularisation of a great part of the Church
revenues. The clergy were to be stripped of what would maintain fifteen
earls, fifteen hundred knights, and six thousand or more esquires,
besides lazar-houses and poor-houses, and still have a “thousand pounds
by the year” for the coffers of the King. Such a spoliation would not
only “drink deep,” as the Bishop of Ely says, but, as his brother of
Canterbury replies, “drink the cup and all.” The King’s new-born piety
would not be a sufficient protection against this danger. Nor would it
be averted even by the offer of a greater sum by way of contribution
than the clergy had ever offered to any one of his predecessors. A more
potent help would be found in the suggestion,

   “Of his true titles to some certain dukedoms;
    And, generally, to the crown and seat of France,
    Derived from Edward, his great-grandfather.”

We are not called upon to discuss the historical foundation for this
story. The chroniclers of the sixteenth century probably put something
of the feelings which were dominant in their own times into their
narratives of the earlier age. But the movement which culminated in the
action of Henry the Eighth was then beginning. The wealth of the Church
was certainly overgrown and often ill-applied. Cupidity it was sure to
excite; but wise and honourable statesmen also regarded it with dislike
as an influence adverse to the national prosperity. But to suppose that
the ecclesiastical authorities could stifle these feelings by forcing,
so to speak, upon the nation a war to which it was averse or even
indifferent is to contradict all the analogies of history.

It would be equally erroneous to suppose that Henry himself was driven
to embark in war by a feeling of the insecurity of his position, and
by the desire to conceal by the glory of his military achievements the
weakness of his title to the throne. Still it is true that the claim
to the French crown was the heritage of the Plantagenets, and that
Henry was compelled to assert it if he would show himself the authentic
representative of the second Henry and the third Edward.

For some time after William of Normandy seized the English throne the
relations of the King of England to the King of France--it might be
more correct to say, the king who reigned at Paris--were those of an
over-powerful vassal to a weak suzerain. When Henry the Second actually
ruled over a larger part of France than the prince who was nominally
its sovereign, this reversal of the ordinary state of things, according
to which the lord was the superior, the vassal the inferior, was
complete. But the tendency of things was to strengthen the central
power at Paris, and to weaken the great feudatories. The English kings
could not retain a permanent hold on their continental possessions. In
the course of the forty-three years’ reign of Philip Augustus the vast
French territory held by Henry the Second was reduced to the provinces
of Gascony and Guienne, from more than a half to less than a tenth of
the whole country.

Without following in detail the events of the next hundred years, we
may say that their tendency was to separate the two countries more
and more completely, and to prepare the way for the change in their
relations which may be held to date from the year 1327. In that year
the last of the three sons of Philip the Fair died childless. Edward
the Third of England, as the son of Philip’s daughter Isabella, put
forward a claim to the succession as against Philip of Valois, who,
as descended from a common grandfather, Philip the Hardy, was his
first cousin.[5] This claim he attempted to enforce by the invasion
which began with the brilliant victories of Crecy and Poictiers, and
reached a certain measure of success in the Treaty of Bretigny (1360).
But before many years had passed, all but Calais was lost to England;
and when Henry the Fifth resolved to recover what he claimed as the
inheritance of his predecessors, he had to begin, it may be said, the
work of conquest over again.

Allies, however, he had whose assistance he was to find very useful.
The dynasty of De Montfort had been established in possession of the
dukedom of Britanny in a great measure by English help, and though
the relations between the two countries had not been invariably
friendly since that time, the sense of this obligation, and, still more
powerfully, a jealous fear of the French king, inclined Britanny to the
English alliance.

The Dukes of Burgundy, though they had no such motives of gratitude
towards England, felt a far stronger hostility towards France. The
feud between the rival factions which went by the names of Burgundians
and Armagnacs had now been raging for several years; and though the
attitude of the Burgundians varied--at the great struggle of Agincourt
they were allies, though lukewarm and even doubtful allies, of the
French--they ultimately ranked themselves decidedly on Henry’s side.

In 1414, then, Henry formally demanded, as the heir of Isabella, mother
of his great-grandfather Edward, the crown of France. This claim the
French princes wholly refused to consider. Henry then moderated his
demands so far, at least, as to allow Charles to remain in nominal
possession of his kingdom; but they were still conceived on a scale
such as to render their acceptance impossible. France was to cede to
England, no longer as a feudal superior making a grant to a vassal,
but in full sovereignty, the provinces of Normandy, Maine, and Anjou,
together with all that was comprised in the ancient duchy of Aquitaine.
Half, too, of Provence was claimed, and the arrears of the ransom of
King John, amounting to twelve hundred thousand crowns, were also to
be paid. Finally, the French king was to give his youngest daughter,
Katharine, in marriage to Henry, with a portion of two million

The French Ministers offered, in answer, to yield the duchy of
Aquitaine, comprising the provinces of Anjou, Gascony, Guienne, and
Poitou, and to give the hand of the Princess Katharine with a dowry of
six hundred thousand crowns, more, it was urged, than any daughter of
France had ever before received on the occasion of her marriage.

These offers were refused. On September 17th (1414) writs were
issued calling together a new Parliament to meet on November 19th at
Westminster. The King was present, but what we should call the Royal
Speech was delivered by Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester and Lord
Chancellor. In this the speaker declared, not only that the King was
resolved to govern his realm wisely, but that he would prosecute even
to death his claim to the rightful inheritance, so long withheld from
him and his predecessors, of the crown of France. That he might do this
with success, the Commons were exhorted to grant a liberal subsidy.
They voted, with the assent of the peers and the clergy, two-tenths and

The scrupulous side of Henry’s character, which seems to have been
not less developed than what may be described as the ambitious side,
would not be satisfied without another attempt at negotiation. His
uncle, the Earl of Dorset, afterwards Duke of Exeter, accompanied by
the Bishops of Durham and Norwich, and a retinue so splendidly equipped
as to excite the astonishment of the French, visited Paris with a new
offer. Normandy and Maine were no longer to be claimed: the dowry of
the Princess was to be reduced from two to one million crowns; but the
duchy of Aquitaine and a portion of Provence were still demanded. The
French Ministers declined to yield in the matter of the territory, but
were willing to raise their offer of a dowry from six to eight hundred
thousand crowns. These terms were, of course, unacceptable, and the
ambassadors returned to England.

One more effort for peace was made, and this time the overture came
from France. It may be conveniently mentioned in this place, though it
was not made till the preparations for war were considerably advanced,
and indeed was called forth by the alarming report of the fleet and
army which the English king was mustering that had been carried across
the Channel.

On the 29th of June the King, being present in a council held at
Winchester, granted seven safe-conducts to the ambassadors of “our
adversary of France [for so, in view of his own claim, he now styles
the French king] about to come into the realm on account of certain
matters manifestly concerning the honour of God and the staying of
the shedding of human blood.” The principal ambassador was Thomas,
Archbishop of Bruges. Another high ecclesiastic, three nobles, and two
lawyers accompanied him. The mission was on a splendid scale, for the
united retinues numbered three hundred and fifty. Henry received them
at Winchester.

The Archbishop of Bruges set forth his mission in a long and eloquent
oration. After a preliminary dissuasion of war and praise of peace, he
proceeded to offer terms: Limoges and its dependencies were to be ceded
to the English crown, and another hundred thousand crowns to be added
to the Princess’s dowry.

On the question of money a compromise had been nearly reached. The
English demand had been reduced to a million crowns, and the French
offer raised to nine hundred thousand. As to territory, the difference
was hopelessly wide. Limoges and its dependencies was a poor country,
which it would not be worth while to accept. The Archbishop of
Canterbury, the accomplished Chicheley, was spokesman for the King. He
made no mention of dowry, but declared that if the French king would
not give with his daughter Aquitaine, Anjou, and all that had ever
appertained to the ancestors of the King of England, the said King
would in no wise “retire his army nor break his journey, but would with
all diligence enter into France, and destroy the people, waste the
country, and subvert the towns with blood, sword, and fire, and never
cease till he had recovered his ancient right and lawful patrimony.”
When Chicheley sat down, the King stood up and declared his assent to
what he had said, and promised on the word of a prince to perform it to
the uttermost.

It was evident that he was bent on war. The concessions made by his
own ambassadors had been taken back, and the conditions now demanded
amounted to nothing less than a partition of France. At the beginning
of the negotiations these had been put forward, in a not uncommon
fashion of diplomacy, as a maximum from which it might be convenient
to make large deductions; as an _ultimatum_, delivered by a sovereign
whose army was almost ready to sail, they meant nothing less than war.

And so the Archbishop of Bruges took them. Casting aside diplomatic
forms, he broke forth into an angry denunciation of English arrogance
and injustice, and warned the King of the danger into which he was
running. Finally, he demanded a safe-conduct to return; a mere form of
speech, as such a safe-conduct was included in that already given to
him and his colleagues.

English chroniclers call him “a proud and presumptuous prelate,” yet
his anger was nothing but natural. Henry did not resent it, though
he did not retreat one whit from his position. The safe-conduct
he granted, and then added (I quote the speech as it is given by

  “I little esteem your French brass, and less set by your power and
  strength; I know perfectly my right to my reign which you usurp;
  and except you deny the apparent truth, so do yourselves also; if
  you neither do nor will know it, yet God and the world knoweth it.
  The power of your master you see, but my puissance ye have not yet
  tasted. If he have loving subjects, I am (I thank God) not unstored
  of the same; and I say this unto you, that before one year pass, I
  trust to make the highest crown of your country to stoop, and the
  proudest mitre to have his humiliation. In the meantime tell this
  to the usurper your master, that within three months I will enter
  into France, as into mine own true and lawful patrimony, appointing
  to acquire the same, not with bray of words, but with deeds of men
  and dint of sword, by the aid of God, in whom is my whole trust and
  confidence. Further matter at this present I impart not unto you,
  saving that with warrant you may depart safely and surely into your
  own country, where I trust sooner to visit you than you shall have
  cause to bid me welcome.”

We can hardly suppose that we have here Henry’s very words. The speech
has a certain rhetorical, antithetical cast that inclines us to
attribute it to the pen of a chronicler who, we may conjecture further,
was writing in Latin. But it probably represents the substance of the
King’s reply with sufficient accuracy.

Nothing more in the way of negotiation could be done. It only remained
to press forward the preparations for war.



Henry’s preparations were begun, as many believe, very soon after his
accession to the throne, and were not discontinued during negotiations
which can scarcely have been intended to succeed. His situation was,
on the whole, favourable for his undertaking. He had no reason to
dread a hostile diversion by way of Scotland. The Scottish king had
been for many years a prisoner in England, and though the chronic
disturbances of the Border did not cease, he was an effectual pledge
for the good behaviour of his subjects, who, if they wished to indulge
their hereditary enmity to England, had to take service with the
French king. The Welsh insurrection had long ceased to be dangerous,
but it had not been yet suppressed, and it might become troublesome
again when the royal forces were employed elsewhere. Henry did not
forget this contingency. From previous amnesties offered to the rebels
the name of the ringleader, Owen Glendower, had been omitted. Henry
now included him in his proposition. He commissioned his “faithful
counsellor, Gilbert Talbot, to treat with Owen Glendower of Wales,” and
promised to receive the said Owen and “others our rebels of Wales” to
his favour if they would only apply for it. This mandate to Gilbert
Talbot bears date July 5th, and was issued from Porchester Castle. At
home there was at least a better prospect of harmony and union than had
existed for many years. The Lollards indeed still gave some trouble,
but their favour with the people was not what it had been. The war
spirit which had seized the nation did not suffer it to think of the
grievances which had seemed so urgent and of the hopes of reform which
had been so attractive a few years before. As for the dynastic enemies
who in the next generation were to overthrow the house of Lancaster,
they were still feeble. The prince on whose claims they relied was
personally attached to Henry, and the ease with which the conspiracy of
Southampton was crushed shows that at this time they were not really

Henry had no accumulated wealth to fall back upon when he set himself
to the task of providing for the many necessities of the campaign which
he meditated. On the contrary, he had found on his accession the public
treasury empty and even embarrassed with debt. But his subjects were
heartily with him in his purpose, and they came forward with liberal
subsidies. The first Parliament of his reign had continued to him the
grant of a tax on stoneware, of tonnage and poundage which they had
made to his father, and that which met in November 1414 had, as we have
seen, been not less generous.

Henry, on his part, was raising money in every possible way. We find,
for instance, a bond given to Paul Milan, a merchant from Lucca, for
a loan of two hundred marks, and a debt of £478 18s. 8d. for cloth
of gold and other merchandise supplied by the same Paul, the debt
being secured on the tolls of coast from the ports of Southampton and
Sandwich. Certain merchants of Venice, again, were given security for
the repayment of a loan of a thousand marks on the customs of the
port of London. These were ordinary transactions. We can hardly say
the same for the pledging of the crown called the Crown Henry to the
Duke of Clarence as security for the pay due to him and his men. It
was to be redeemed before January 1st, 1416; should this not be done,
the said Duke would be free to deal with it after his pleasure. Next
we find a certain great tabernacle, once belonging to the Duke of
Burgundy, of silver gilt, and garnished with twenty-two sapphires and
one hundred and thirty-seven pearls, pledged to various persons, among
whom are the Dean and Chapter of Exeter, for the repayment of a loan
of eight hundred and sixty marks; while some Norfolk creditors have a
great circlet of gold pledged to them in consideration of a loan of a
thousand marks. It will be remembered that Devonshire and Norfolk were
at this time among the richest, if not actually the richest, counties
in England.

Henry, it is clear, spared no expense in making his army as numerous
and effective as possible. In that wonderful collection of public
documents known as Rymer’s _Fœdera_ we find the contracts into which
he entered for the payment and maintenance of this force. It will be
interesting to give Dr. Lingard’s careful summary of their contents.

  “1. Contracts were made by the Privy Seal with different lords and
  gentlemen, who bound themselves to serve with a certain number of
  men for a year from the day on which they were first mustered. 2.
  The pay of a duke was to be 13s. 4d. per day; an earl, 6s. 8d.;
  a baron or banneret, 3s. 4d.; a knight, 2s.; an esquire, 1s.; an
  archer, 6d. 3. The pay, or security for its amount, was to be
  delivered by the treasurer a quarter of a year in advance; and if
  the money was not actually paid at the beginning of the fourth
  quarter, the engagement was to be at an end. As an additional
  remuneration, each contractor received the ‘usual regard’ or
  douceur of 100 marks for every thirty men-at-arms. 4. A duke was
  to have fifty horses; an earl, twenty-four; a baron or banneret,
  sixteen; a knight, six; an esquire, four; an archer, one. The
  horses were to be furnished by the contractor, the equipment by
  the King. 5. All prisoners were to belong to the captor; but if
  they were kings, the sons of kings, or officers high in command
  bearing commissions from kings, they were to belong to the Crown,
  on payment of a reasonable recompense to the captors. 6. The booty
  taken was to be divided into three parts. Two remained to the men;
  the third was again divided into three parts, of which the leader
  took two and left the third to the King.”

These arrangements strike us as being as liberal as they are business
like. Henry, it is clear, would not run the risk of failure by starving
his great expedition, or by neglecting to enlist on his side the
interests of his troops.

In another important matter, little regarded or wholly disregarded
before his time, he showed his remarkable capacity for military
command. This was the medical service of the army. Generals, of course,
had often taken their physicians with them into the field. We have, for
instance, the diaries, with notes of symptoms and treatment, of the
physicians who attended Alexander the Great. But now, for the first
time, at least in English history, we find a commander-in-chief making
regular provision for the medical and surgical treatment of his sick
and wounded. Early in the year (the indentures bear date April 29th,
1415) the King had agreements drawn up with his physician Nicholas
Colnet and his surgeon Thomas Morstede. Each was to have the daily pay
of twelve pence, and to have a guard of three archers, each archer
receiving the daily pay of sixpence.

We do not hear of Nicholas Colnet being furnished with any assistance.
Anything like hospital treatment of disease was probably impossible
in a campaign of those days; and a staff of physicians could hardly
have had any proper facilities for using whatever knowledge they may
have possessed. On the other hand, Thomas Morstede, the surgeon, was
accompanied by a considerable establishment. When a wound had been
received, life could often be saved, or efficiency preserved, by
immediate surgical treatment. The surgeon-general, as we may call him,
was accordingly directed to take with him twelve of his own craft.
Each of the twelve was to receive the daily pay of an archer; and in
addition to the daily twelve pence, a quarterly allowance of a hundred
marks was assigned to each of the two chief medical officers.

Nearly a month later Morstede presented a petition to the King praying
for a sum of money for the purchase of such things as were necessary
for his office, and also that all persons engaged in the surgical
service of the army should be directed to act under his instructions,
and should receive such wages as he should appoint. A third request was
for a transport-service, modestly limited to a chariot and two waggons,
Morstede wished also to know what wages he was to receive, and how
many attendants were to be allowed him. The King’s reply granted the
chariot and waggons for the ambulance service and twelve assistants;
but it is not clear that these twelve were the same surgeons whom
Morstede had been originally directed to take with him.

Sixpence a day could not have been a very attractive remuneration.
Accordingly we are not surprised to find Morstede afterwards applying
to the King for power to press, “as well within as without franchise
birth, persons of his craft such as he should choose to accompany him.”
In the following year, that it may not be necessary to return to the
subject, the King issued a writ to Morstede and William Breowardine,
his colleague, to this effect:

  “Know ye that we have appointed to you, conjointly and severally,
  surgeons and other workmen, to take and provide without delay for
  the making of certain instruments necessary and fitting for your
  mystery, such as may be required for our present campaign beyond
  the sea.”

The army, raised and equipped with such care and forethought, numbered,
it is said, six thousand men-at-arms and twenty-four thousand archers.
Cannons as effective as the manufacturing skill of that day could
produce, and other engines of war had been procured. So effective and
so well prepared an army had never before been collected in England for
service abroad. A splendid relic of the expedition remains to this day
in the Record Office. On July 20th a roll was prepared in which should
be written the names of all who were to set forth with the King. It is
still to be seen, a splendid example of the caligraphy of a time when
that art was approaching its perfection.

The army was on the point of embarking, Henry himself having come to
Southampton to superintend the operation, when everything was delayed
by the discovery of a conspiracy which had for its object nothing less
than a change of dynasty.

Its ringleader was Richard Plantagenet, Earl of Cambridge, second
son of Edmund of Langley, Duke of York. He had received his title
from Henry, but he seems to have conceived the hope of advancing
his fortunes more effectively by supporting the elder branch of the
Plantagenets. “He intended,” says the record of his trial, “to kill
the usurper Henry of Lancaster, and to set the Earl of March upon the
throne.” He had married Anne, the Earl’s sister, and in the event of
the Earl dying without issue, as actually happened nine years later,
his own son Richard would be heir to the throne.[8] This conspiracy,
therefore, was a premature attempt to assert the claims which were
afterwards advanced for the house of York, whose head at this time
was the conspirator’s elder brother. The Earl had also, it is said,
what may be called a second string to his bow in a person supposed to
be Richard the Second, escaped from the Tower. This pretender, Thomas
of Trumpyngton, was then in Scotland. With the Earl of Cambridge
were associated Sir Thomas Grey of Heton, in Northumberland, who was
probably the intermediary of the King’s enemies on both sides of the
Scotch border, and Lord Scrope of Mersham, nephew of the Archbishop of
York whom Henry the Fourth had executed. Scrope was the King’s intimate

The plan of the conspiracy was to conduct the Earl of March to the
Welsh border and then proclaim him king. Henry Percy, who had not
yet returned from Scotland, and some Scotch lords were to create a
diversion in the north.

The King acted with his accustomed vigour. The conspirators were at
once put upon their trial and found guilty. They were too dangerous to
be spared. It would be impossible to carry on the war with vigour if
the enemies of the dynasty were to be allowed to plot against it at
home. But Henry, though he was stern, was not cruel. The guilty persons
were executed, but without the indignities that usually accompanied the
punishment of treason. The friendly relation between the Earl of March
and the King was not disturbed by this rash attempt. The story that the
Earl encouraged the conspirators and then betrayed them, may be safely



Henry set sail from Southampton on August 11th. His point of attack was
Harfleur, in the estuary of the Seine, now a decayed village, but then
reckoned to be the first seaport of Normandy. This importance was one
reason for attacking it; another was the activity shown by its sailors
in capturing English shipping. The fleet of transports was necessarily
large, fourteen or sixteen hundred vessels in all; it seems to have
accomplished the voyage in safety, though, as the disembarkation of
the troops did not begin till the night of August 14th, it may have
encountered rough weather, and some stores were certainly spoiled by
the sea.

Henry’s first care was to issue strict orders for the good behaviour
of his army. All property of the Church was to be held sacred, and
no violence to be done to any clerical person; women were not to be
injured. The penalty of death was to be inflicted on all offenders.

He had effected his landing, which it would have been easy to oppose,
without molestation. Nor did he meet with any hindrance when, four days
afterwards, the disembarkation of his men and stores completed, he
marched to Harfleur and invested the town. This occupied both banks
of the river Lézarde, a tributary of the Seine. The entrance to the
harbour was defended by a chain drawn across from two towers which
flanked either end of the walls. The defences of the town were strong,
and each of the three gates was defended by an outwork. The garrison
consisted of four hundred men-at-arms, who with their attendants may
have made up a force of between two and three thousand men. It was
reinforced, before the investment of the town was made complete, by
a body of troops under the Lord of Gaucourt, who immediately assumed
the chief command. Henry sent a herald to demand the surrender of the
town. It was consistent with the position which he claimed, that of a
sovereign demanding his rightful inheritance, that he threatened the
inhabitants with death if they refused obedience to the lawful Duke of

A regular siege was then commenced. Trenches were pushed up to the
town, and when the batteries were finished a cannonade was opened.
Henry had some heavy field-pieces and a certain number of artillerymen
and engineers, though these, of course, did not bear anything like
the modern proportion to the whole force of the army. The defence was
obstinate. The besieged repaired the damage caused by the cannonade
almost as fast as it was done, and successfully countermined the
English mines. They inflicted no little loss on their assailants by
the missiles which they discharged from the walls, and even made some
sallies with success. Meanwhile the English army was suffering greatly.
No small part of the stores brought from England had been damaged in
the passage across the Channel, and supplies from the country could
only be obtained by sending out large bodies of men. It was not long
before disease began to show itself in the camp. Bad and scanty food,
and the wetness of the weather, which seems to have been constantly
unfavourable throughout the campaign, caused an epidemic of dysentery.
As many as two thousand men are said to have perished of this disease.
Among them was the Bishop of Norwich--who, churchman as he was,
seems to have been a trusted and efficient counsellor in military
matters--and many nobles and knights.

Henry did not fail to perceive the gravity of the situation, and
determined to risk an assault. This was to be delivered at dawn, after
a cannonade had been kept up during the night. But before morning came,
the commander of the garrison sent an envoy to the King, bearing the
offer to capitulate unless the town should be relieved by the King
of France within three days. It was now the 19th of September, and
the siege had lasted exactly thirty days. No help arrived within the
stipulated time; indeed the French king and his counsellors had at
once informed the inhabitants that their army was not ready to act. On
Sunday the 22nd, the Lord of Gaucourt, accompanied by a number of the
chief inhabitants of Harfleur, made a formal surrender of the keys to
the English king. Henry received his visitors in a magnificent tent
which had been raised for the purpose on a hill fronting the town.
Everything was arranged to suit the royal state which it was a point of
principle with him to assume. Sir Robert Umfraville stood on his right
hand holding a spear, on the point of which was the crowned helmet
which it was his custom to wear, and which denoted that the King was
seeking to recover his own by arms. The English nobles stood in ranks
on either side. The ceremony over, the Governor and his company were
royally feasted, and on the next day Henry entered the town.

It was characteristic of the devout temper of the man that his first
thought was for his religious duties. He dismounted on reaching the
gate, had his shoes and beaver removed, and walked barefooted to the
church of St. Martin, where he offered up a thanksgiving for his
success. This piety, however, did not prevent him from pushing to the
extreme his use of a conqueror’s rights. The nobles and men-at-arms
were stripped of their armour and sent away, “clothed in their jackets
only,” after giving a promise on oath to surrender themselves prisoners
at Calais on the Martinmas following (November 11th). This, perhaps,
was no more than defeated combatants might have expected. But the
treatment of the inhabitants seems to have been harsh. They were
compelled to ransom their lives with all that they possessed, and then,
with their wives and children, were driven out of the town. To each
was given a miserable pittance of five sous, and they were permitted
to take with them a part of their clothing. “It was pitiful,” says
Monstrelet, writing apparently from the report of an eye-witness, “to
see and hear the sorrow of these poor people, thus driven away from
their dwellings and property.”

Harfleur was undoubtedly a great prize. The actual amount of booty
taken in the town was large, and the harbour was the most important
in Western Normandy. The loss of it, too, was deeply galling to the
French king, who made it the ground of an urgent summons to his nobles
that for want of succour his gallant and loyal subjects of Harfleur had
been forced to surrender. But the capture of a single town, however
important and wealthy, was not an adequate result of an expedition
which had aimed at nothing less than the conquest of France. It became
a pressing question what was to be done. The first expedient tried, if
we may so speak, was to send a challenge to the Dauphin, offering to
submit the decision of the claim to the throne of France to the issue
of a single combat. Henry was too good a soldier not to know that his
antagonists were not likely to give him so easy a way of escaping from
a perilous position, and could not have been disappointed when no
answer was sent to his message. The safest course would now have been
to return at once; and this seems to have been pressed upon the King
by the majority of his counsellors. But this prudent advice did not
approve itself to Henry’s adventurous temper. He was determined to show
that, at least, he was not afraid of the foes whom he had challenged,
and who, as he declared--it is hard to say with what belief in his own
words--had unjustly seized his inheritance. He determined accordingly
to make what may be called a military parade to Calais. This involved
a march of not less than a hundred and fifty miles through a hostile
country, a dangerous, and, but that one who cherishes such designs as
Henry’s must make a reputation for daring, a useless operation; but the
King’s determined will overcame all opposition, and preparations were
made to carry out the plan.

The sick and wounded were sent back to England, and with them the
prisoners--who, however, could not have been numerous--the booty, and
the engines of war, for which Henry probably felt that he had not
adequate means of transport. It suggests a curious contrast to the
conditions of modern warfare to find a skilful general voluntarily
ridding himself of his artillery. Five hundred men-at-arms and a
thousand archers were left to garrison Harfleur. On October 8th the
King commenced his march with such forces as were left. Elmham, his
chaplain, who was probably present, puts them at scarcely nine hundred
men-at-arms and five thousand archers; Monstrelet estimates the former
at two thousand, the latter at fifteen thousand.

Nearly half of his purposed journey Henry seems to have accomplished
unmolested. At Eu, near Tréport, the seat of the Counts of Artois, his
light troops were attacked, but repulsed the enemy with loss. And now
his difficulties began. His position, indeed, was curiously like that
in which his great-grandfather, the third Edward, had been before the
victory of Crecy. He was in the presence of superior forces, and he
had to cross the Somme, a considerable river, fordable in few places,
in despite of them. Edward had made the passage at Blanchetaque, a
ford near the sea, which got its name from the white stones which
there formed the bottom of the river. Henry’s first idea was to
follow his example, but he learned from his scouts that the ford was
strongly guarded by the French, and altering his line of march made for
Pont-de-Remy, a place about as much above Abbeville as Blanchetaque
is below it. The detachment sent to force the bridge found it strongly
occupied by the enemy, and was unable to dislodge them. Edward had made
an equally fruitless attempt at the same place.

Fortune, or rather the fault of his enemies, befriended him, as it had
befriended his predecessor. A Norman peasant, who preferred a hundred
nobles to his duty to his country, had guided Edward to the ford of
Blanchetaque; and now the neglect of the people of St. Quentin, who had
been commanded to stop the ford between Betencourt and Voyenne, allowed
a passage to Henry. The crossing was no easy task. The river was
swollen with rain, and the army had no little difficulty in approaching
the bank. If a sufficient French force had come in time to dispute the
passage, the English might have lost heavily, or even been destroyed;
but the first part of the army had made its way over unmolested, the
King himself superintending the operation, before the enemy came in
sight, and then not in sufficient force to prevent the completion of
the passage. Before nightfall the whole army had safely reached the
right bank of the Somme. Henry had been marching and counter-marching
for nine days on the other shore, and had been forced to make a long
detour from his proposed line. If he could have made the passage of
the river, as he had once hoped to do, at the ford of Blanchetaque, he
would have been at less than half the distance from Calais than that at
which he now found himself.

The line of march from which he had been driven by the necessity of
crossing the Somme he was bent on regaining.[9] The nearer to the
sea the easier the road, and there would be the advantage that one
flank of the army would be safe against attack. Accordingly he moved
westward unmolested, it would seem, by the French troops which had been
previously guarding the right bank of the Somme, and had now fallen
back on the main body of their countrymen. His route led him through
the villages of Peronne, Albert, Bonnieres, and Frevent. On October
24th he reached the village of Blangy-on-the-Ternoise, a stream with
an average breadth of about thirty feet and of considerable depth. It
is possible, however, that it was not then, as it is now, dammed up
to work a mill; and it is at this mill that local tradition fixes the
place of his crossing. Continuing his march up the slope which leads
to the table-land above the valley of the Ternoise, he found himself
close to the enemy, who indeed had posted themselves in great force
across the way to Calais. Their presence was announced to the Duke of
York, who was in command of the van. The King, calling a halt, rode
forward to reconnoitre, and began at once to make his arrangements for
the battle which he now felt to be imminent. His main body took up its
position at Maisoncelles, the baggage being placed in the rear of the
wood that still bears that name. The front lines of the French army
were but three bow-shots off; according to one account still less;
their headquarters seem to have been somewhere behind the village of
Azincour or Agincourt.

The night was spent by the English in much discomfort. The King’s
chaplain tells that he turned aside to a village where there were
houses, but very few of them. Some of the principal personages had a
roof over their heads; the main body of the army had to be content
with such rest as they could find in gardens and orchards, and this
amidst drenching rain. The supply of meat and drink was, however, a
little better than usual. The chaplains with the army were busy almost
till morning with receiving confessions and giving absolution, and
the complaint was that there were not enough of them for this duty,
although one of their number speaks of them as a clerical army. On the
other hand, the French passed the time in feasting and merriment, and
found one source of amusement, it is said, in casting dice for their
prisoners. The same story is told of the demeanour of the victors and
the vanquished before the battle of Hastings. It is possible that it
may be true, but it certainly points a moral very aptly.



After a night of heavy rain, the morning of October 25th dawned bright
and clear. The French army barred, as has been said, Henry’s road to
Calais, but, relying on their vast superiority of force,[10] they
had not been at the pains to take up what could be called a military
position. A huge mass of men occupied the level ground that lies
between the villages of Agincourt and Rousseauville. Their extreme
right touched the road to Calais, and if Henry was to gain that, he
would have to make his way through their ranks. So impossible did this
seem, that they took none of the ordinary precautions observed by
an army that is going to give battle. The villages of Agincourt and
Tramecourt, which were respectively in a slight advance of their right
and left wings, were left to be occupied by the English. No attempt
was made to take advantage of the woods which flanked their position.
To stand still and to let their enemy dash himself to pieces on their
ranks was the policy of their generals, if a policy they had. Even to
this plan, which indeed might well have been successful, it will be
seen that they did not adhere.

The disposition of the French army may be thus described:--D’Albret,
Constable of France, with the Dukes of Orleans and Bourbon, commanded
the front line, which consisted, it was said, of twenty thousand men.
They were on foot, heavily armed with long coats of mail, greaves, and
helmets; but on either wing there were posted bodies of cavalry, ready
to charge when the occasion offered. Behind this came another line,
commanded by the Duke d’Alençon; and behind this again a third, which
was composed chiefly of cavalry.

The English army consisted of one single line. So narrow was the
space of the future battle-field that the English front was equal in
extent to the French. Comparatively small, too, as were their numbers,
they were sufficient for the practical purpose of giving an adequate
solidity to the line. In the first clash of battle, at least, the two
would be on equal terms. The small force of men-at-arms, not more than
three or four thousand, was posted in the centre. The right and left
divisions were mainly composed of archers, some of whom were also
interspersed among the men-at-arms. Each archer had a stake shod with
iron, which he planted in the ground before him. The men had carried
these with them almost from the beginning of their march from Harfleur.
They were to act as an extemporised palisade in the case of an attack.
Detachments of archers were posted in the villages of Agincourt and
Tramecourt, and were ready to harass the enemy should they advance to
the attack. A body of cavalry was even pushed forward beyond the French
left. The baggage was placed, under the protection of a small guard,
behind the village of Maisoncelles.

Henry himself commanded in the centre, a conspicuous object to all
eyes. He was not one of the kings who went into a battle disguised.
There was doubtless a personal taste for splendour and ornament shown
in his dress and accoutrements; but he was also impressed with the
belief that a king must be, and show himself to be, the foremost
fighter as well as the leader of his army. He wore a surcoat which with
its gay blazonry set forth his claim to the double throne, showing as
it did the lilies of France and the leopards of England. His helmet was
circled with a rich crown of gold. While he was marshalling his lines
and encouraging his men to do their best, he rode a small grey horse.
This part of his work finished, he dismounted, and took his place on
foot in front of his line. The Duke of York commanded the right wing,
which was slightly in advance of the line: the left, on the other hand,
was slightly withdrawn, and this was in charge of Lord Camoys. Each
division had its proper banner; over the head of Henry was displayed
the royal standard with the quarterings of France and England.

For some time after daybreak no movement was made on either side till
both armies had taken their breakfast. Then followed an attempt,
probably made by some influential ecclesiastic on the French side,
to negotiate a peace. We may be sure that the demands made were
impossible; in any case, Henry peremptorily refused them. A movement
on the part of the French cavalry followed, and it was seen that the
French artillery was ready to commence operations. Henry saw that he
must act, and, with the happy audacity which has its occasions not
less often than prudence in the conduct of great captains, ordered an
advance. Sir Thomas Erpyngham, a knight grown grey in campaigning,
threw his truncheon into the air. This was the signal for the forces
that lay in ambush, and for the line that fronted the enemy, to
advance. A loud cry of “St. George!” was raised from flank to flank,
and the English moved forward with their king at their head.

The advance was a feint. Perhaps it would be more correct to say that,
in case of need, it would have been converted into a serious attack,
but it was probably intended to provoke the French into a forward
movement. If it was so, the purpose was accomplished with the happiest
result. To the French, in the pride of their overwhelming numbers and
splendid equipment, it seemed nothing less than an insult that this
little band of ragged, wayworn soldiers should actually advance to
attack them. In a moment the plan of waiting for the enemy to waste his
strength upon their solid line was abandoned. They crowded forward, as
if to trample down by sheer weight of numbers the insolent invaders.

Then the English halted. The archers planted their stakes in the
ground, and stood sheltered behind them, while they poured forth that
deadly hail of arrows which more than once before all the chivalry
of France had been unable to withstand. At first it seemed as if
numbers must prevail, even against all Henry’s skilful dispositions
and all the desperate valour of his men. For a time the English line
was borne backward by the sheer weight of the advancing enemy. It is
not easy to state precisely what turned the fortune of the day. There
was the marvellous efficiency of the archers, whose clothyard shafts
were driven with a force which we, who know the bow only as a toy, can
hardly conceive; there was the resistance of the palisade of stakes,
which stopped the charge of the French cavalry, and left the men and
their horses a helpless mark for the aim of the bowmen; there was the
paralysing crowd of the French attack, a crowd so thick that only
those in front could even lift their hands to strike a blow; and there
was, almost as potent a cause as any, the deep clay of the Agincourt
plateau. It would not be easy to find a stiffer and more tenacious
soil; and it was now more than usually deep and cumbersome. The long
autumn rains, which had helped to thin the English army as it lay
before the walls of Harfleur or painfully struggled along the bank of
the Somme, now lent them a most valuable aid. Even where a man-at-arms
or a knight found space to act, he was kept in a forced indolence by
the sheer impossibility of moving.

And, when the day had begun to turn against the French, the panic which
their valour, so powerful in attack, seems unable to resist in the
moment of defeat, set in, and made it hopeless to retrieve the fortunes
of the fight. Yet there were not wanting gallant attempts to turn
the defeat into victory. Every one recognised how great a share the
tactical skill and courage of Henry were having in the victory which
now seemed about to be won. If he could be struck down where he stood,
conspicuous in his embroidered surcoat and crown-encircled helmet,
all might yet go well for the French. Accordingly the Duke d’Alençon
pressed forward with a company of knights and men-at-arms to the spot
where Henry was fighting. He struck to the ground with a dangerous
wound in his groin the King’s youngest brother, Humphrey, Duke of
Gloucester; and when Henry stepped forward to protect the fallen man,
the Duke dealt him a blow so violent that it dinted his helmet and
brought him to his knees. But the effort was hopeless; the odds were
too great. “I yield my sword,” cried the Duke, and Henry called to his
knights to save the Frenchman’s life. It was too late; he fell pierced
by numerous wounds, and all his companions shared his fate.

The rally led by the Duke d’Alençon was the final effort of the first
line of the French. It was now, we must suppose, that the English found
themselves indebted to the strange protection of which one of the
chroniclers speaks--a pile of French corpses so high that it sheltered
them as they poured their arrows into the foe. The second line seems to
have made no separate attempt to restore the fortune of the day. The
unceasing shower of the English shafts, the advance of Henry and his
men-at-arms, and, finally, the charge of the force which had been put
in ambush on their left flank, drove them in unresisting flight. Among
the leaders of the third line there were found some who showed more
courage, perhaps we should say presence of mind, for courage was not
wanting to the vanquished on that day. The Lord of Fauquemberg, with
some other nobles, had with difficulty kept a few hundred men-at-arms
together, with whom they now made a gallant charge on the English:
it was useless; they were killed or made prisoners to a man. A few
other such efforts were made by isolated bodies in various parts of
the field, but all were equally hopeless. Everywhere the French were
routed, slain, or taken. The victory of the English was complete.

The glory of this victory was marred by a deplorable incident. News
was brought to Henry that the enemy were attacking his rear, and had
already captured a large part of his baggage. The battle was not yet
over, but it was already clear which way it was going: “during the heat
of the combat, when the English had gained the upper hand and made
several prisoners,” are the words which Monstrelet uses to describe the
time. But victory, though in sight, was not yet gained. Henry knew that
the forces of the enemy still outnumbered his own. Even yet, were they
to know that any part of his line had been broken, they might rally
and change the fortune of the day. Were such an effort to be made,
the prisoners, of whom a considerable number had already been taken,
would be a formidable danger. At the best they would require a guard
of fighting men, which he could not spare; they might even take part
in the attack. The safety of the army seemed to require decisive and
instant action, and accordingly Henry issued orders that the prisoners
were to be killed. It may well have been a necessity, but it was a
necessity of the most deplorable kind. Yet we must not suppose that
the opinion of those days regarded the act as it would be regarded by
ourselves. “It was a most lamentable thing,” writes a Norman gentleman
who was with the English army, and who was probably an eye-witness of
the scene, “for all these noblemen of France were there killed and cut
to pieces, heads and faces; it was a fearful sight to see.” The natural
human horror at so bloody a spectacle comes out in the last words; but
what seemed so lamentable a thing to the Sieur de St. Remy was that so
many _noblemen_ of France should be thus slaughtered. For prisoners,
it must be remembered, were not taken out of mercy. The ransoms that
they would pay were the points in the great war-game which nobles
and knights were playing. No man, we may be sure, ever encumbered
himself with a prisoner from whom nothing could be expected. The
penniless common soldier was slaughtered without mercy. It perfectly
agrees with this that the knights to whom the King issued his command
flatly refused to obey it, and that he had to send a squire with three
hundred archers to execute it. The money-interest of the knights in the
lives of the prisoners was too powerful for the sense of discipline,
seldom very strong in a feudal army, and even for the instinct of
self-preservation. To kill their prisoners would be to lose their only
hope of repaying themselves for the vast outlay of their equipment.
Doubtless it was against the strong class-feeling of the day that a
_gentleman_ should be so put to death; this would be against the rules
of the game. But it is certain that considerations of finance more than
of humanity dictated this refusal to execute the King’s orders.

As a matter of fact, the horrible deed was not, after all, a military
necessity. The news that was brought to Henry had been grossly
exaggerated. The attack on the rear of the army was really nothing
but an attempt to plunder. A few men-at-arms and about six hundred
peasants, led by one Isambart, a resident in the village of Agincourt,
whose local knowledge probably suggested the attempt, fell upon the
baggage of the English army and succeeded in rifling a large part
of it. A long list of the jewels which were lost on that occasion
is preserved among the public records. Walsingham tells us that the
English crown was captured, and being sent, as we may suppose, to
Paris, caused great delight, as it seemed to augur the capture of the
King himself. Monstrelet mentions, as part of the spoil, a sword,
ornamented with diamonds, that was also part of the royal property:
with this precious offering Isambart of Agincourt vainly endeavoured to
appease the wrath of the Duke of Burgundy, who, justly regarding him
as responsible for the massacre of the prisoners, had him thrown into

Henry now rode round the field of battle, accompanied by his kinsmen
and the great nobles attached to his person. He called to him the
French herald, Montjoye, king-at-arms, and other heralds, French and
English. “It is not we,” he said, “who have made this great slaughter,
but the omnipotent God, and, as we believe, as a punishment for the
sins of the French.” He then asked Montjoye, “To whom does this
victory belong--to me, or to the King of France?” “To you, sire,” was
Montjoye’s answer. Then looking round him, he saw the turrets of a
castle rising out of the wooded hollow in which lay the village of
Agincourt. “What castle is that?” he asked. He was told that it was
the castle of Agincourt. “Well, then,” said he, “since all battles
should bear the name of the fortress nearest to the spot where they
were fought, this battle shall from henceforth bear the ever durable
name of Agincourt.”

The French loss was enormous. Monstrelet gives a long list of the
chief princes and nobles who fell on that fatal field. It contains,
doubtless, some errors; but it has the look of having been prepared
after careful inquiry. Hence we are disposed to trust his estimate,
which, including princes, knights, and men-at-arms of every degree, he
puts at ten thousand. The loss at Crecy, if we may trust Froissart,
who, however, was not there writing of his own knowledge, had indeed
been much greater, for more than thirty thousand men had been then
left dead on the field. But of these not more than twelve hundred were
nobles and knights, whereas at Agincourt, out of the ten thousand only
sixteen hundred are said to have been “of low degree.” One hundred and
six-score banners are also said to have been taken.

Besides the Duke d’Alençon, whose death has been described above, there
fell two brothers of the Duke of Burgundy, Charles d’Albret, Constable
of France, the Admiral of France, and the Master of the King’s
Household. Three hundred others of the slain were persons of sufficient
importance to make Monstrelet give their names and titles. The number
of knights and gentlemen taken prisoners was fifteen hundred. Among
them were Charles, Duke of Orleans, and the Duke of Bourbon, both
princes of the blood-royal. Henry, it will be seen, attached much
importance to their capture.

Monstrelet puts the English loss at sixteen hundred. The principal
persons among the dead were the Duke of York, who is said to have been
crushed to death in the throng, and Michael de la Pole, the young
Earl of Suffolk. Walsingham’s estimate is improbable. Besides York
and Suffolk he says that only one squire (David Gam by name), four
men-at-arms, and twenty-eight common soldiers fell. It seems impossible
that several hours of severe fighting between two armies, fairly
matched in armour and equipment, should not have resulted in greater
loss to the conquerors. His estimate of the French loss is also much
smaller than Monstrelet’s: “Of great lords,” he writes, “there fell to
the number of nearly one hundred, and of soldiers and men-at-arms four
thousand and sixty-nine.” He also reduces the number of prisoners to
seven hundred; and on this point he would very probably have better
means of information than Monstrelet.

The English army remained on the field of battle till it was quite
clear that nothing more was to be feared from the enemy, and then
they returned to the village of Maisoncelles, their quarters on the
previous night. The next morning they again visited the scene of their
victory. All the French they found there alive were put to death or
made prisoners--a significant comment on what has been said above as to
the slaughter of the prisoners. To kill the wounded is now considered
an atrocity which no civilised enemy would commit. In the fifteenth
century it was evidently the usual alternative when the wounded person
was not likely to turn out a profitable prisoner. The chronicler
mentions it as a matter of course, without so much as a hint of blame.

Nothing more conclusively shows the absolute collapse of the French
Government than the neglect of the field of battle. For nearly a
week the dead were left uncared for. The most valuable parts of the
spoil had been carried off by the English. “The greater part of the
armour,” writes Monstrelet, “was untouched on the dead bodies, but it
did not long remain thus, for it was very soon stripped off, and even
the shirts and all other parts of their dress were carried off by the
peasants of the neighbouring villages. The bodies were left exposed,
as naked as when they were born.” The remains of the great nobles were
indeed carried away--some to be buried in the Church of the Friars
Minor in the neighbouring town of Hesdin; others were taken to their
own homes in various parts of France. At last the compassion of the
Count of Charolois, eldest son of the Duke of Burgundy, was moved by
the deplorable spectacle. By his orders the bodies still left on the
field, to the number of five thousand eight hundred, were interred
in three trenches twelve feet wide, dug within a measured square of
twenty-five yards, which was surrounded by a thorn hedge strong enough
to keep out wolves and wild dogs. The enclosure still remains, a small
wooded clump among the rich corn-fields of the upland of Agincourt.
Within it stands a pillar erected some few years ago by the lord of the
neighbouring manor, the Marquis of Tramecourt, himself a descendant of
one who fought at the battle, and had the good fortune to escape with
both life and liberty.



Brilliant as was the victory which Henry had won at Agincourt, it had,
it may be said, no immediate results. The English king was not in a
position to follow it up. His loss on the field of battle had, as we
have seen, been considerable--amounting to nearly a sixth of his army,
if we are to accept the smaller estimate of his numbers, to a twelfth,
if we take the larger. Nor is it likely that the sickness which had
already so terribly diminished his force had altogether ceased. We
are indeed expressly told that the soldiers were “sorely fatigued by
their efforts in the battle, and greatly troubled by famine and other
wants.” But, indeed, so sagacious and far-seeing a general could never
have contemplated any other result. He had, in truth, got all that he
could have hoped for. He had done what he had said he would do. He had
marched from his town of Harfleur to his town of Calais, and all the
hosts which the King of France had gathered to bar his way had been
scattered before him. This chivalrous, even rash, undertaking had been
accomplished, and accomplished with a success so splendid that it had
seemed to be the very wisest thing that he could have done. He had
not, it is true, achieved anything more towards the actual conquest
of French territory than had been achieved on the day when Harfleur
surrendered, but in prestige and in all that prestige can effect he
had gained immensely. The glories of Crecy and Poictiers, dimmed by
sixty years of feebleness and dissension, had been revived. Englishmen
had again found that they could conquer even against desperate odds;
and they had learnt that they had a captain at their head who was at
least the equal in skill and courage of the greatest of those who had
gone before him. Though the close of the day of Agincourt did not
leave the conqueror in possession of one foot more of French soil
than he had owned at its beginning, it brought him sensibly nearer to
the end of his ambition, the crown of France. Any attempt to seize it
at once would have been sheer madness. If he had ventured on a march
to Paris, even the broken and dispirited remnant of the French army
would have been sufficient to crush his feeble force. His policy was
to wait, to gather fresh strength for a renewed effort. Meanwhile the
profound discouragement that could not but be the result of a defeat so
disastrous, suffered in circumstances so discreditable, would sink into
the minds of his adversaries. Other causes, too, would be at work, the
force of which he was shrewd enough to foresee. Dissension and jealousy
were rife among the governing classes of France. Neither of the great
feudatories of the French crown had been present at the battle of
Agincourt. Two brothers of the Duke of Burgundy were there and fell in
the conflict, but the Duke himself was absent, and absent, it would
seem, of set purpose. The Duke of Britanny would have been present,
says Monstrelet, if the battle had been delayed till the Saturday. But
his tardy movements, in view of the ample notice which he must have
received, are suspicious. As for the governed, there was a general
feeling among them that they could not suffer more from the rule of the
English than they were suffering already from their own princes and

Henry’s course, then, after the victory was plain. Before everything
acknowledgment must be made to God. Accordingly a service of solemn
thanksgiving was performed by the clergy on the field. The Psalm _In
Exitu Israel_ (“When Israel came out of Egypt”) was chanted, and when
the singers came to the words “Not unto us, not unto us,” every man
knelt on the ground: the _Te Deum_ followed. Then the army resumed
its interrupted march to Calais, which was about forty miles distant.
At Calais a council of war was held, and the resolution to return to
England unanimously taken. A few days were allowed for refreshment,
and about the middle of November the army embarked. The passage of the
Channel was effected without loss; but though the wind was favourable,
the sea was, as usual, rough, and the French prisoners, the chief of
whom were carried in the King’s ship, declared that their sufferings
were not less than those which they had endured on the disastrous day
of Agincourt. They regarded with nothing less than astonishment the
cheerful unconcern of Henry.

When the fleet reached Dover the people gave it a triumphant reception.
Many of the citizens waded out to the royal ship, anxious to carry
their King to shore. The streets were crowded with persons, religious
as well as lay, who had gathered to do him honour. After some days
spent at Dover, Henry proceeded to London. There, of course, a still
more magnificent reception awaited him. The mayor and aldermen, with
a vast throng of citizens, came out to meet him, and the scene in the
city recalled the splendours of a Roman triumph. Banners inscribed with
the achievements of the conqueror’s predecessors were displayed at the
gates and in the streets, as if to show that his victories were to be
ranked with theirs. The conduits ran with wine. Platforms were erected
and hung with splendid draping, on which boys, habited like angels,
sang the praises of the King. The people were especially anxious for a
sight of the helmet still bearing the dint of that mighty stroke with
which Alençon had almost changed the fortune of the day; but Henry’s
modesty would not allow it or the rest of his armour to be exhibited.
The same enthusiastic welcome was given to him in other places which he
visited in the course of the next few weeks.

Among these festivities those who had fallen were not forgotten.
On December 1st a solemn service, attended by a multitude of great
ecclesiastics from all parts of the kingdom, was held in memory of the
Duke of York and others, French as well as English, who had fallen
at Agincourt. The King’s uncle, the Earl of Dorset, came over from
Harfleur, of which place he had been made governor, to attend it.
The news that he brought from France was so far satisfactory that he
could report another victory over the French; but it was clear that,
if the enemy already ventured to show himself so near to the English
possessions, the work of conquest had yet to be done.

For this work preparations on the largest scale had to be made. After
keeping his Christmas at Lambeth, the King issued writs for a new
Parliament. This met at Westminster on March 16th, and was exhorted
by the Lord Chancellor (Bishop of Winchester) to assist the King in
the completion of an enterprise which had been already so well begun.
Accordingly the Commons voted, with the assent of the Lords and
spiritual Peers, that the subsidies granted in the previous year should
be collected sooner than had been before ordered, made a grant of equal
amount for the year to come, and, in addition, gave the King tonnage
and poundage for the safeguard of the sea, and settled on him for life
the duties on wool and leather.

Henry’s attitude to his Parliaments remained, so far as we can
judge, judicious and firm. It would be a mistake to suppose that the
petitions which they presented to the sovereign always or even commonly
represented a popular demand. They were oligarchical assemblies, and
the interests which they asserted were often the interests of a class.
The Crown might often be compelled to assert the right of those who
were not represented by churchmen and barons on the one hand, or by
knights of the shire and burgesses on the other. This was a duty which
Henry seems not to have neglected. He certainly enjoyed what may
fairly be called an unprecedented popularity. His Parliaments were
invariably complaisant, and his people were enthusiastically attached
to him. Dangers that would have seriously threatened a throne less
firmly established in the affections of the natives passed by and did
no harm. Neither the badness of his title to the crown, nor the anger
of the Lollards, who conceived themselves betrayed by his House, nor
the expenses of a costly war did anything to compromise his position.
It would not be possible to find a greater contrast than was presented
between France, distracted by factions struggling for the power which
a lunatic king dropped from his hands, and England, harmonious and
enthusiastic, welcoming back after a brilliant victory its vigorous
prince, and united in giving him all the help that he demanded. If
the darling scheme of the Plantagenets, the union of the two crowns,
had been within the limits of possibility, Henry would certainly have
effected it.

While the King was making preparations for another effort, a desultory
warfare and negotiations for peace were going on simultaneously. In
the May of 1416 an illustrious negotiator appeared upon the scene.
Sigismund, King of the Romans, aspired to perform the functions of a
moderator of European affairs--functions which he doubtless regarded
as belonging to the imperial dignity. He had taken a principal share
in bringing together the Council of Constance, which was to put
an end to the scandalous Papal schism and to restore unity to the
doctrine of Christendom. He now conceived the idea of bringing about a
reconciliation between the rulers of France and England. After paying
a visit to Paris he pursued his journey to England. Henry, always fond
of magnificence, gave him splendid entertainment. But he was careful
to let it be understood that he admitted no imperial pretensions which
might interfere with his own sovereign rights. A story was brought to
England of Sigismund’s behaviour in Paris from which it was gathered
that such pretensions might possibly be put forward. The Emperor-elect
had knighted an esquire who was a subject of the French king. Whatever
he may have meant by the action, which indeed was probably suggested by
personal feeling, it undoubtedly implied a very serious claim. Henry
had sent to Calais a numerous fleet, which was to convey and escort
his guest. When the ship that carried Sigismund approached the English
coast, the Duke of Gloucester, with other nobles, rode into the water
and demanded, before he was permitted to land, whether he claimed any
imperial jurisdiction in England. On assurance being given that he
meditated nothing of the kind, he received a royal welcome.

Another visitor who came to England on the same errand was William
of Bavaria, Duke of Holland. The Duke of Burgundy also sent a
representative, and ambassadors from the French court were present
to discuss the conditions of peace. It is not easy, nor indeed is it
important, to determine precisely what followed. The parties to the
negotiations entered upon them with different objects, and are not
likely to have been very frank in their dealings with each other. Henry
was not willing to recede from the demands to which he had steadfastly
adhered on the eve of Agincourt, when his position was apparently so
desperate. He would be satisfied with nothing less than what had been
conceded to his great-grandfather, Edward, by the Treaty of Bretigny.
It is difficult to believe, even on the testimony of Sigismund, that
the French envoys made such a concession. Its effect would have been to
undo the work of years, and make the king of France what the king at
Paris had been two centuries before.

In September Henry accompanied his imperial guest to Calais, where they
were met by the Duke of Burgundy. A treaty was drawn up by which it was
stipulated that the Duke should assist the English king in his proposed
conquest of France, and should have in return a share of the spoil.
But it was not executed. The Duke shrank from committing himself to a
course of action so unprincipled, and indeed so perilous to himself,
for his best hope of independence lay in the rivalry between France
and England. But though the treaty was not executed, the very fact of
the meeting at which it had been discussed did much to serve Henry’s
purpose. It increased the dislike and suspicion which the party that
was in power in France already entertained for the Duke.

Meanwhile hostilities, which there is no need to describe in detail,
had been going on. The Earl of Dorset (soon afterwards created Duke
of Exeter), who was in command of the garrison at Harfleur, made a
plundering expedition into the adjoining country, and found some
difficulty in making his way back. In May the French made a retaliatory
expedition against the southern shore of England, and ravaged the
island of Portland. Later in the year Harfleur itself was besieged, and
though it was twice successfully relieved, the fact made it evident
that so far France remained unconquered. It is said that Henry was bent
on conducting one of these relieving expeditions in person, but was
dissuaded by his new friend Sigismund on the ground that the enterprise
was not sufficiently important to call for his interference. Whatever
the cause, he remained at home, organising his forces, collecting by
whatever means were available--some of them, one cannot but think, not
altogether creditable--the necessary funds, and generally preparing
himself for an effort that should be final and conclusive. Early in
1417 he sent letters under the Privy Seal addressed to the nobles and
gentlemen of the country, enjoining their attendance, either in person
or by deputy, and making inquiry what number of men they could bring
into the field. Further instructions were given a little later in the
year to the effect that all persons so serving should attend at court
and execute the indentures which should secure them their pay. Special
attention was paid to the efficiency of the force of archers, and
orders were issued to the sheriffs, enjoining the supply of a certain
quantity of goose-quills for the feathering of the arrows.

Henry’s relations with the Duke of Burgundy naturally occupied much
of his attention. It was the Duke’s Flemish possessions that brought
him and the English king together. The trade between the Flemings and
the English was a matter of great importance to both nations, and
possibly of supreme importance to the former. Hence a treaty that
gave it as much safety as was attainable was sure to be popular. The
Duke sent ambassadors to England early in the year, when the truce
concluded in 1416 was further extended. It was specially provided that
no ships of war intended to act against the territories of either of
the contracting parties should be fitted out in their ports, and no
ships taken by pirates should be taken into such ports. The treaty
was ratified in the month of August, and not till then did Henry feel
himself ready to start on his second campaign, though he had named June
24th as the day of gathering at Southampton.



It might have been supposed that Henry’s family associations would
have led him to a certain sympathy with the aims of the party which
looked up to Wickliffe as its principal leader; nor is it unlikely that
something of a sense of ingratitude was aroused by the adverse course
of action which was followed by his father and himself. John of Gaunt
had been at one time the strong supporter of Wickliffe. On the famous
day when the reformer was arraigned before the princes and prelates of
England, the Duke of Lancaster had stood by his side and had virtually
saved him.

Whatever may have been the Duke’s motive in taking up this attitude,
it was one which he was not able nor perhaps willing to maintain. It
certainly did not make him popular; indeed it is possible that the
Lollards themselves were not generally popular. Anyhow he was one of
the most hated men in England when Wat Tyler’s insurrection broke
out. His palace in the Savoy was burned, and he himself narrowly
escaped with his life. During his latter years we find no traces of
championship of the Lollards.

The discontent of this party with the established order of things
was probably one of the causes which led to the establishment of the
house of Lancaster on the English throne. If so, any services that were
rendered by the party were ill repaid. When Henry the Fourth came to
the throne he found himself under considerable obligations to Thomas
Arundel, who had been expelled from the see of Canterbury, and who
now received it again. Arundel was vehemently opposed to the new ways
of thinking, and took an active part in the measures--measures of a
severity unprecedented in England--which were taken to suppress them.

It has been suggested that among the faults of which Henry made
confession after he succeeded to the throne was a favourable reception
which his conscience accused him of giving to heretical opinions. The
suggestion cannot be said to be founded on anything like evidence.
Theological errors are not the usual temptation of a young prince, and
there is nothing in Henry’s after-life to make us fancy that in his
youth he was inclined to freedom of thought. All that we know of him
would rather incline us to a contrary belief. There is, however, the
fact that there was some relation, perhaps we may say, of personal
friendship between Henry and the Lollard leader, Oldcastle.

Sir John Oldcastle, sometimes styled Lord Cobham, as having married the
heiress of that peerage, was a distinguished soldier who had served in
the campaigns of the reign of Henry the Fourth. It is probable, though
we do not know for certain, that he was associated with the young
Prince during a part at least of his operations on the Welsh borders.
Henry must have appreciated his qualities as a soldier; at any rate,
the action that he took with respect to him indicates, as we shall
see, some amount of personal interest. Walsingham, indeed, expressly
says that he was Henry’s _familiaris_, or, we may say, intimate friend.

In Henry’s first year, Convocation requested the Archbishop of
Canterbury to proceed against Sir John Oldcastle for offences against
ecclesiastical law and for heresy. The Archbishop was willing enough to
act, but did not care to do so without permission of the King, of whose
friendship for the accused he was aware. He represented the matter to
the King, and the King, sending for Oldcastle, bade him attend at court
to recant his heretical opinions. His arguments and remonstrances were
of no avail; Oldcastle was willing to render him all obedience and
service in temporal things, but to the Pope and his commands he owed
no allegiance. The King, finding him immovable, remitted him to the
judgment of the Ecclesiastical Court.

It is needless to relate in detail the proceedings which followed.
Oldcastle, still dissatisfied with the tribunal before which he was
to appear, again appealed to the King. First he presented to him a
statement of the articles of his belief. Henry refused to receive it.
He then offered to bring a hundred knights and esquires who would
clear him, it is to be presumed, by challenge of battle. This proposal
was rejected, but Henry admitted him to a private interview. He again
pleaded to have his cause tried by the King in person. The King
repeated his refusal, this time with some irritation: the accused, he
said, could not have all things ordered after his own pleasure: the
Archbishop ought to be, and should be, his judge. Meanwhile, till the
time came for him to stand his trial, he must be kept a prisoner in the

The trial, of which a complete account has been preserved, was held
on September 23rd. Oldcastle was of course condemned, and delivered
over to punishment by the secular arm. Time, however, was given him to
reconsider his opinions, and he was again committed to the Tower.

What followed, it is impossible to say with any certainty. Oldcastle,
we know, escaped from the Tower, but the insurrection which is said
to have been made by some of his friends and followers is a matter
involved in great mystery. That the King apprehended some danger
is manifest. On December 4th we find him sending orders to certain
magistrates enjoining them to arrest various persons whom he had
otherwise named to them. There is also record of a pardon granted to
a person who had given intimation of the conspiracy, and of a pension
settled upon him for life in reward of his services. Early in the next
month a proclamation was sent out, offering large rewards for the
arrest of Sir John Oldcastle, who had escaped from the Tower.

So much we know from documents of State. To what overt acts the
conspirators proceeded, if conspirators there were, is not so clear.
Walsingham gives a circumstantial account of the affair, which,
omitting his reflections, is as follows:

  “The King kept Christmas duly at Eltham, and there the Lollards,
  making a conspiracy, resolved to take or slay the King unawares
  with his brothers. But certain of the conspirators warned the
  King of his danger, so that the King quietly removed himself
  to Westminster, that place being safer and more populous. The
  Lollards met at nightfall in the fields that are called St. Giles’,
  near to London, where it was reported that Sir John Oldcastle was
  waiting for his followers. You might see crowds of men hurrying
  throughout the streets, who had been drawn from all the counties
  of the realm by great promises of reward. All these, being asked
  why they made such haste, declared that they were going to meet the
  Lord Cobham, who had hired them at his own costs. But the King,
  knowing what had been done, bade his followers arm themselves.
  Some counselled delay, but the King would not listen to them,
  having heard that the rebels purposed, if they should prevail, to
  destroy straightway the monasteries of Westminster, of St. Albans,
  and St. Paul, and all the Friars’ houses in London. Hereupon a
  proclamation was issued, offering a general pardon to all persons
  that had preached heretical doctrines and had plotted against the
  King’s life. But Sir John Oldcastle and eight others, these eight
  being prisoners in the Tower, were exempted by name. For this cause
  the King proceeding to the said Fields, against the advice of his
  people, some time after midnight, waited for what the next day
  might bring forth. Many who sought the camp of the Lord Cobham came
  unawares into the King’s camp, and were so taken prisoners. The
  chief of the rebels heard how that the King had come with a strong
  army, and had taken many of their men. They were much troubled also
  that no one came to join them out of the city, from which they had
  looked for many thousands. For the King had given orders that the
  gates should be shut and be kept close, that none save such as
  were known to be of his party might go forth. And indeed ’tis said
  that had he not so done, there would have gone forth of servants
  and apprentices as many as fifty thousand. Thereupon the Lollards
  took to flight. As for their leader, none knew to what place he had
  betaken himself, for though the King offered a thousand marks to
  any who should give him up, yet no one was found who for so great a
  reward would give him up.”

That this is the account of an unfriendly historian need not be said.
It is more to the point to remark that for most of his narrative
Walsingham relies upon hearsay. And even so, there is not a syllable
said about armed resistance. That there was a great concourse of people
may be taken as certain, as also that they were called together by
sympathy for their leader. That they meditated any designs against the
King is not by any means so clear. Henry had all a soldier’s impatience
of such gatherings; nor was he yet so assured of his throne as he
shortly became. He may have been justified in apprehending a danger
which yet, after all, may not have really existed.

Walsingham was a monk, and wrote from a monk’s point of view.
Titus Livius, who, though not a contemporary, must have heard many
contemporaries discuss the matter, says simply that the King, having
learnt on Twelfth-day that certain persons had assembled in a field
at the back of St. Giles’ Church, led some soldiers against them, who
easily dispersed them, killing some and taking others prisoners.

His words read like the account of an attack upon a body of unarmed
men. It is noticeable that the punishment which followed was punishment
for heresy, not for treason; and it is expressly stated that priests
as well as laymen suffered. The rest of the story may be briefly told.
Oldcastle remained at large for nearly four years. Walsingham reports
him to have attempted a rising on the occasion of Henry’s departure
on his French expedition, and mentions rumour of a plot which he
had formed against the King’s person in the beginning of 1417, and
of negotiations with the Scots later on in the same year. The monk
clearly saw the hand of the arch-Lollard and his followers whenever
there was any mischief going on. The end came not many weeks after.
He was captured in Wales after what would seem to have been a fierce
resistance, for several of his captors as well as the prisoner himself
were wounded. Taken to London, he was brought before Parliament, the
session being specially prolonged in order that his case might be
heard. The proceedings that followed cannot be described as a trial.
He was asked what he had to say on his behalf why he should not be
condemned. His answer seemed to be irrelevant to his judges, and the
Duke of Bedford, who was acting as Regent, bade him keep to the point.
His doom was sealed, if indeed it had not been fixed before, when he
denied the jurisdiction of his judges, and declared that he would
answer only to his liege-lord Richard, then alive in Scotland. He
suffered death by burning, being hung on a chain fastened to a gallows,
while a fire was lighted beneath. Of the special barbarity of this
punishment Henry may be acquitted. He was absent in France; nor is it
likely that the execution was delayed till he could be consulted. We
may even believe that it would not have been allowed had he been in
England. Indifferent as he was to suffering, and relentless where any
military necessity was concerned, he was not cruel, and would hardly
have ordered the torture of a brave soldier for whom he had once had
some personal regard. But there is no reason to suppose that he would
have spared Oldcastle’s life. There was a growing severity in the
treatment of heresy, and he was quite in accord with it. Shocking as
such severity seems to us now, it was one of the ways in which the
religious earnestness of the age expressed itself. The Council of
Constance, while active to cleanse the Church of abuses, saw, we
cannot doubt, a cognate duty in sternly repressing what it considered
the vagaries of heresy. The safe-conduct of Sigismund had not protected
John Hus from this orthodox zeal; nor is there any reason to suppose
that this postponement of good faith to a pious duty called forth
anything more than a transient feeling of self-reproach. The “blush of
Sigismund” has become historical; but this Prince seems to have soon
recovered his self-satisfaction; nor did the perjury committed in the
interests of the true faith make him a less honoured guest or less
trusted adviser of the English king. Henry, in fact, though he may be
acquitted of any personal barbarity, was in full accord with the spirit
which sent Sir John Oldcastle to the stake.



There is a strange episode in Henry’s history which cannot be passed
over, but about which it is difficult to form any satisfactory
conclusion. This episode concerns his relations with his stepmother,
Joanna of Navarre. I deal with it now, though it belongs by right to
a later period of the narrative, because when this is disposed of,
nothing need interrupt the story of Henry’s career as a conqueror.

Under the year 1419 Walsingham writes: “In this year the King’s
stepmother, Queen Anne, was accused by certain persons of some
wickedness that she had contrived to the injury of the King. All her
attendants were removed, and she was committed to the custody of Sir
John Pelham, who, hiring five new attendants, put her into the castle
of Pevensey, there to be kept under his control.”

At Pevensey Queen Joanna remained till within a few weeks of Henry’s
death. On July 13th, 1422, the King made a communication to the Council
at home to the following effect:--That for reasons known to them
he had for a time taken into his own hand the dower of his mother,
Queen Joanna; that, doubting whether it would not be a charge on his
conscience to keep the said dowry any longer, and being indeed advised
not to suffer such a charge to lie, he now instructed them to make
deliverance unto the said Queen wholly of her said dower. She was to
appoint her own servants, so that they were the King’s liegemen. All
her furniture was to be delivered to her again. She was to have five or
six gowns of cloth, and of such colour as she was used to wear. As she
would not choose to remain in the place where she then was, she might
have horses for eleven cars to remove her goods, and she might go to
any place which she might choose.

It is not difficult to see causes of an estrangement between the
Queen and her stepson. Her eldest son, the Duke of Britanny, had been
expected to become a warm ally of the English in the war against
France. He had disappointed this hope. It would even seem that it was
only by an accident that he had not fought against Henry at Agincourt.
Her second son, Arthur, though an English subject, as having done
homage for the earldom of Richmond, had been actually taken prisoner
in that battle. Some accounts even represent him as having made an
attack on the English camp during the night of the 24th of October.
The Duke d’Alençon was her son-in-law. Charles of Navarre, Constable
of France, was her brother. A lady so closely connected with the enemy
might well become an object of suspicion. And she was, or had been,
unpopular in England. Parliament had complained of the foreigners whom
she kept about her person, and with such effect that the King (Henry
the Fourth) had dismissed all but a few. But one cannot help thinking
that her dowry had more to do with the matter than anything else.
Henry, compelled even to pawn the royal jewels for the expenses of his
expedition, may have looked with coveting eyes on his stepmother’s
wealth, wealth which she seems to have been careful to save, and even
to increase by trade. A jointure of ten thousand marks had been settled
on her by the House of Commons in 1406. She enjoyed, in addition, a
large income as Dowager-Duchess of Britanny. We hear of various trading
ventures, especially of the export of ore from certain lead mines which
her second husband had granted her. Special privileges as regards
export and import duties seem also to have been accorded to her. On the
other hand, it has been pointed out that her charities were unusually
small for a person of her exalted station. On the whole the impression
is left that she had both the opportunity and the will to accumulate
wealth. Such accumulations, if they existed, could hardly have failed
to attract the attention of a sovereign who was doing all that he could
to procure the sinews of war. Indeed we hear of Henry directing one
of his officials to send all the money that he could possibly borrow
from the dower of Joanna the Queen, leaving her only money enough for
her reasonable expenses and to pay any annuities that she might have
granted. This injunction was followed in the same year by the arrest of
the Queen. It is not unlikely that she resisted the attempt to extort
the money, and that her resistance was punished by the accusation
which Walsingham records. The crime charged against her was probably
sorcery: “she had compassed,” it was said, “the death of our lord the
King in the most high and horrible manner that could be imagined.” On
the Parliamentary roll that contains this statement there follows with
suspicious promptitude the confiscation of all the accused person’s

Henry was not in England at the time when this happened, but he cannot
be acquitted of responsibility in the matter. It is certain that when
he returned he did nothing to redress his stepmother’s wrongs. This
was left, as has been said, till nearly the end of his life, when her
imprisonment had lasted for more than three years. The only excuse
that can be offered is that he probably regarded the confiscation of
Joanna’s wealth as a military necessity; and where a military necessity
was concerned, no other considerations were allowed to interfere with
his action.



The time was now come when Henry was to make his great effort for the
conquest of France. The first necessity was to provide for the safe
passage of the army by clearing the Channel of the enemy’s ships.
This was done by the Earl of Huntingdon. He met nine ships, which had
been hired by the French king from the Republic of Genoa, sank three
of them, and captured three more with their admiral and a large sum
of money. On July 23rd the army started from Southampton. In addition
to one thousand pioneers and other workmen, it numbered twenty-five
thousand five hundred and twenty-eight combatants, of whom between
sixteen and seventeen thousand were men-at-arms. The transporting fleet
consisted of about fifteen hundred ships of all sizes.

No attempt was made to oppose the landing of the army. The disaster of
Agincourt had so far broken the courage of the French that they had no
idea of meeting the English in the field. The plan of campaign seems to
have been that the fortified towns should be garrisoned as strongly as
possible, and the invading force left to exhaust itself by the effort
of taking them. Two or three sieges, as costly to the conquerors as
that of Harfleur had been, would leave little to be done by way of
active operations for the defence of the country. The plan, we shall
see, failed of success. Henry was earlier in the field than he had been
in the campaign of Agincourt, his army was better furnished for siege
operations, he had acquired new experience, and he had the advantage of
a more favourable season.

Castles and walled towns fell in rapid succession into the hands of the
English. Touques, a royal castle, which was the first to be assaulted,
offered some resistance. The garrison made a vigorous sally upon the
besiegers, and held out for two days against the incessant cannonade
with which it was plied. But on August 3rd (the army had landed on the
first of the month) it was agreed that if the place were not relieved
in six days it should be surrendered. Relieving force indeed there was
none, and the scattered garrisons throughout Normandy soon realised
the hopelessness of their situation. Damvilliers, Harcourt, Evreux,
and other places were surrendered without a struggle. Monstrelet says
that the other towns in the duchy were astonished at the facility of
the English conquests, and that scarcely any place attempted a defence.
And he goes on to give a reason which must have been at least as potent
for this result as any demoralisation caused by the remembrance of
the English victories. It was due, he says, to the divisions among
the nobles, some of whom were for the King and some for the Duke of
Burgundy, and each party was in consequence fearful of trusting the
other. Moreover, the Constable had drawn off most of the forces in the
district to be ready to act against the Duke, who was daily expected
with a large army.

Not the least important factor in Henry’s success was the admirable
order in which he kept his army. All violence and plunder were
forbidden. Ecclesiastical persons were put, as might be expected, under
a special protection, and to insult or rob one of this privileged class
was an offence to be punished with death. To the laity was offered a
similar protection if they would own the English king’s authority.
This policy, carried out with the unflinching firmness which was one
of Henry’s characteristics, at once secured the kindly feeling of the
population and made the army a more effective instrument.

About the middle of August Henry commenced the siege of Caen.
Anticipating that the garrison would destroy the suburbs and so deprive
him of the cover by help of which he could approach the town, he sent
the Duke of Clarence with a strong force to occupy them. The Duke was
just in time to save them from being burnt. Henry’s character for piety
may have had something to do in gaining for him another advantage. The
French forces had occupied St. Stephen’s Abbey, which lay outside the
town. On the approach of the English they resolved to destroy it. The
monks, on the other hand, were bent on saving it; and they did so by
secretly introducing an English force.

On the King’s arrival before the town, an attempt was made to carry
it by assault. The storming parties were repulsed with heavy loss.
Henry then set his engineers to work. Mines were carried up to the
walls, which were also battered by the cannon. When all was ready for
an assault, he offered terms to the garrison. They were refused. The
next morning the assault was delivered, every detail of the operation
having been first carefully arranged by the King. It was completely
successful, the attacking parties making their way into the town on
both sides, and this without any great loss. From first to last the
siege did not cost the English more than five hundred men, a number
which contrasts strongly with the almost disastrous expense that had
attended the capture of Harfleur. Henry, after duly returning thanks in
the cathedral, proceeded to deal with the conquered town. The castle,
which still held out, was admitted to surrender on certain conditions
if not relieved in twelve days’ time. The inhabitants generally were
mercifully treated. Indeed Henry’s conduct so raised his reputation for
clemency that many neighbouring towns at once offered to capitulate. As
usual, however, nothing was allowed to interfere with military policy.
Caen was to be made a garrison, and accordingly fifteen hundred “women
and impotent people, who were unserviceable and useless,” were sent out
of it.

After the fall of Caen, Lisieux, Alençon, and many other places
capitulated without making any attempt at resistance. A more important
gain than the possession of any city or fortress was the adherence
of the Duke of Britanny. On October 27th this Prince came under
safe-conduct to a conference with Henry. The terms of their agreement
were not precisely known; but it was certain that a truce was made
which was to be in force till the following Michaelmas. It was also
reported that the Duke kneeled to the King as to his suzerain, and
offered to hold Britanny as a fief under the English crown, or rather
the French crown as now united with that of England. Falaise, which was
surrendered on January 2nd, was the last conquest of the year 1417.
The castle did not capitulate until six weeks later.

It would be unnecessary to relate in detail the military operations
that now followed in uninterrupted succession. During the first weeks
of the new year (1417–18) Henry was active in the field, and though,
with the devoutness which so strongly characterised him, he spent Lent
in strict retirement, his brothers were busily employed. The great
successes of the year were won at Cherbourg and Rouen. Cherbourg was
taken by the Duke of Gloucester, aided by a force which the King had
ordered to be despatched from some of the western harbours of England.
The mere sight of its approach is said to have determined the surrender
of the garrison. The siege of Rouen was one of the most important
operations of the war, and as it was carried on throughout under
Henry’s superintendence it demands a more particular notice.

In May the King left Bayeux and marched up the southern bank of the
Seine. His first object was to possess himself of the strong position
of Pont de l’Arche, situate about eight miles above Rouen, and commonly
called the Key of the River. The bridge itself was held by the French
in such strength that it could not have been forced without a great
sacrifice of men. Henry accordingly marched some three miles lower down
the stream to a place where it was divided by an island. The French
followed him. While their attention was distracted by a feint (one of
the ingenious stratagems with which great commanders are so ready), the
island was occupied by a small force of English gunners. A cannonade
drove away the troops that had been left to guard the passage, and some
thousands of men then crossed without meeting any resistance. Henry now
held both banks of the Seine. He constructed a bridge of boats to join
his two camps, and in about three weeks’ time received the capitulation
of Pont de l’Arche. Leaving a considerable garrison in it, he proceeded
to invest Rouen, which was now practically isolated from the rest of
France. It was a great, and, considering the strength of the place,
even a perilous enterprise. But success would be of inestimable value:
the possession of Rouen would mean the acquisition of Normandy.

The place was very strong. It lay, not, as now, on both sides of
the river, always a circumstance adverse to effective defence, but
wholly on the northern side. The walls were high and strong, and well
supplied with artillery, with cannons of a size then unusual, and with
catapults, an engine of war which the invention of gunpowder had not
yet driven out of use. The garrison again was unusually large. There
was a local militia numbering at least fifteen thousand men, and a
force of not less than seven thousand regular troops and artillerymen.
On the other hand, the provisioning of so large a force would in
any circumstances have been a matter of difficulty. As it was, this
difficulty was enormously increased by circumstances which Henry had
doubtless taken into account. To the usual population of the town
was added a multitude of country-folk who had flocked in from the
neighbourhood to avail themselves of the shelter of the walls. And the
siege was begun so early that the harvest of the year could not be

Henry speedily completed the investment of the land side of the town.
Each of the six gates was commanded by a strong fort, and these
forts were connected by palisaded trenches. The river was rendered
impassable, both above and below, to any relieving force that might
attempt to approach the town. Chains and booms were stretched across
it, and a flotilla was brought up from Harfleur, part of which, as
it would have been dangerous to pass under the guns of the town, was
dragged over land to a point above the walls. A body of Welshmen
watched the town from the south bank of the river, and many hundreds
of Irish kernes, lightly armed and fleet of foot, accompanied the
English cavalry in their excursions into the neighbouring country. “The
greater part of them,” says Monstrelet, “had a stocking and shoe on one
foot only, while the other was quite naked. They had targets, short
javelins, and a strange sort of knives. Those who were on horseback had
no saddles, but rode excellently well on small mountain horses, and
were mounted on such panniers as are used by the carriers of corn in
parts of France. They were, however, miserably accoutred in comparison
with the English, and without any arms which could much hurt the
French, whenever they might meet them.”

This miscellaneous force was kept by their general under the strictest
discipline. He was especially careful to prevent all straggling. The
men were rigidly forbidden to lodge outside the military lines; and on
one occasion two soldiers who were discovered transgressing this order
were summarily executed.

Henry made no assault upon the town. He was too careful of the lives
of his men to waste them in so perilous an enterprise. He contented
himself with repelling the frequent sallies of the besieged, which the
strength of his lines of circumvallation and the state of readiness in
which he always kept his troops enabled him to do without serious loss.
He kept his men employed indeed with the construction of siege works,
with the driving of mines, and with the construction of systematic
approaches to the town; but his chief reliance was a blockade. The
vast population, military and civil, ordinary and extraordinary, that
crowded the walls of Rouen could not be long fed on any stores that had
been laid up in this place, while effectual measures had been taken
against the throwing in of any relief.

The first-fruits of this policy of starvation were seen in the
surrender of the fortified post of the Abbey of St. Catherine. This
was given up by the force that garrisoned it within a month of the
investment of the city, and given up because provisions had failed.
Henry’s own camp meanwhile was abundantly supplied with provisions,
furnished by stores of his own, or brought in by the parties which
ravaged the neighbouring country.

Rouen soon began to feel the pressure of famine. Its governor made
an attempt to relieve it by expelling from the town twelve thousand
non-combatants. Henry refused to let these miserable creatures pass
through his lines, and they perished by degrees under the walls. The
story of their fate is pitiable in the extreme. Some of them lingered
on till the very end of the siege. Many of the soldiers on either side
had hearts more tender, or perhaps it should be said intelligences less
alive to the necessities of the military situation, than the generals
who directed the attack and the defence of Rouen. These secretly
supplied the outcasts with such provisions as they could spare. Henry
himself departed from the severity of his policy by furnishing the
few who were left alive on Christmas Day with a meal. But neither the
Governor nor the King relented. It may be mentioned as an incident
eminently characteristic of the time, that new-born children were
raised in baskets to the top of the walls, duly baptized, and then let
down again to perish of hunger.

Henry has been severely blamed for the inhumanity that he is said to
have displayed on this occasion. It may be allowed that there have been
great soldiers who would sooner have relinquished a military advantage
than allow such misery to exist under their eyes, but Henry was not of
this type. He was a soldier first; and to his conception of a soldier’s
duty, which was to use every military advantage that fell in his way,
he subordinated everything. For wanton cruelty he had no taste: it did
not come within the scope of his business; but from cruelty that was
not wanton--that is, was dictated by some consideration of necessity or
expediency--he never shrank. There is something, it must be allowed,
that is repulsive about this, and it is made more repulsive by the
contrast which it makes with Henry’s almost ostentatious piety. This
is a contrast, however, which is apparent rather than real. Henry’s
belief that the French crown belonged to him of right was, incredible
as it may seem, a genuine conviction, even, it may be said, a religious
conviction. This feeling, it may well be believed, still further
fortified his heart against any thought of concession to mere human
weakness. As far as regards his military pitilessness he strongly
resembles Cæsar and Napoleon.

A messenger from the besieged succeeded in making his way through the
English lines and in reaching Paris. He saw the Duke of Burgundy, and
delivered in emphatic terms the message of the citizens of Rouen: “If
by your negligence we are conquered by the King of England, we shall
become the worst and bitterest enemies you have.” The Duke promised
help, a promise which greatly encouraged the town to persevere in its
defence. The oriflamme, the sacred banner of France, was indeed taken
from the Abbey of St. Denis later in the year, and an army nominally at
least intended to relieve Rouen followed it; but it never approached
the town. There was indeed no one to act for France.

This appeal, as has been said, was made to the Duke of Burgundy. The
Dauphin meanwhile had opened negotiations for peace with the English

A formal peace Henry would not make. To do so would, he conceived,
be a renunciation of his claims to the French crown. Indeed he
carefully avoided conceding directly to the Dauphin the title of
Regent of France: in the commissions which were issued to the English
ambassadors he is the “Regent _so-called_.” A truce was proposed, which
was preliminary to a treaty. The English demands included all the
territories mentioned in the great Peace of Bretigny, and Guienne as
well. A stipulation was added that if the Duke should refuse to come
into this treaty the king of England should march with as many troops
as might be necessary to Paris, and deliver that city with the royal
family into the hands of the Dauphin. In return for this service he
was to have Flanders, a possession of the Dukes of Burgundy.

In an interesting document Henry sets forth for the consideration of
his ambassadors various difficulties which were involved in these
proposals. Could he, without prejudice to his right to the crown of
France, join arms with the Dauphin? Could he still receive the Duke
of Burgundy, should the Duke submit to him? Could he justly invade
Flanders while the truce was unexpired? A number of military problems
were also suggested. Finally it was asked whether the Dauphin was
qualified to conclude a valid truce.

A supplementary commission authorised the ambassadors to treat for the
hand of the Princess Katherine; and elaborate instructions were given
to them as to their action in case of a partial concession of their

The negotiations went on for a time, if not with success, at least
without coming to a manifest end. On one point the Dauphin returned
an emphatic answer. He would not join with the English king in acting
against the Duke of Burgundy. “I will never make peace,” he said, “with
the ancient enemy of my country in order to destroy a vassal.”

On November 17th the French commissioners, accompanied by the Cardinal
d’Ursins, who was to act as mediator, came to Pont de l’Arche, and
there met the English ambassadors. After a preliminary difficulty
about the language in which the proceedings of the conference should
be carried on had been disposed of, the conditions were discussed.
The French envoys presented the King with a picture of the Princess
Katherine, a present which he is said to have received with the
greatest satisfaction. But he did not abate one jot from his demands,
which indeed it is not too much to say he had made of set purpose
impossible. He claimed the hand of the Princess Katherine, the duchies
of Normandy and Acquitaine, and other principalities, all of them to be
held in his own right and without any dependence on the king of France.
The French commissioners at once rejected these terms as impossible,
and the English retorted by questioning their authority to treat. In
the end nothing was done.

Rouen was now left to its fate, and that fate was evidently close at
hand. Early in December a sally was planned, it being arranged that two
thousand men were to issue simultaneously from each of the gates. The
plan was only partially carried out, and though some loss was suffered
by the English, nothing of real importance was effected. About the
middle of the month a definite intimation was given to the inhabitants
of Rouen that they must no longer expect relief. The distress in the
town had by that time reached the point of agony. The richest among the
citizens were reduced to eating horse-flesh; the poorer were glad to
devour dogs and cats, rats and mice. Terrible stories were told that
some had eaten human flesh. According to one chronicler, not less than
fifty thousand died of starvation during the six months of the siege.
The number is incredible, but it is certain that the famine reached an
intensity that has seldom been equalled. When the last hope of relief
was gone, it became absolutely intolerable. The inhabitants rose in
revolt against the magistrates, demanding that negotiations should be
immediately opened with the besiegers. There was indeed no reason why
this should not be done, and on January 2nd the envoys of the town were
admitted to Henry’s presence. At first he refused to grant any terms:
Rouen must open its gates and admit its conqueror. A truce indeed for
eight days was allowed; but the days passed without any result being
attained. All that the English King would say was that the inhabitants
of Rouen must submit themselves absolutely to his mercy. The people
then formed a desperate resolution. They would fire their town in
several places; a great length of the wall was to be undermined and
supported temporarily with props; these were to be suddenly removed,
and the whole population was simultaneously to sally forth. All who
could bear arms were to fight their way out, while the women and
children were to endeavour to make their escape.

Henry then relented. This purpose of the people meant the destruction
of Rouen, and he did not wish to lose the chief city of Normandy. He
renewed negotiations, and terms of capitulation that were at least
tolerable were finally agreed upon. A ransom of three hundred thousand
crowns of gold was to be paid, and all material of war was to be
delivered to the King. The lives of all persons in the town, with a
few named exceptions, were to be granted to them, and all who would
swear allegiance to the King should retain their property; others might
depart. One noteworthy provision, as indicating Henry’s persuasion that
he was dealing, not with an enemy, but with rebellious subjects, was
that the King should have a space, either within or without the walls,
for the building of a palace, but that he should duly purchase such
ground from its owners.

On January 22nd Henry entered the town with his customary show of
magnificence. It was noticed, with much speculation as to the meaning
of the symbol, that a page rode behind him bearing a lance to which
a fox’s brush was attached after the manner of a pennon. His first
care, as usual, was to return thanks in the cathedral for his victory.
That done, he received the homage of the citizens. All but five of the
persons excepted from the amnesty were either pardoned or released
on payment of a fine. A noted partisan leader, Alan Blanchart, who
had treated his prisoners with great cruelty, was beheaded; and the
Vicar-General, who had excommunicated the English king, was condemned
to imprisonment for life.

The fall of Rouen was soon followed by the submission of the rest of
Normandy. Henry at once set himself to the task of administering the
province which he had acquired. He kept his court as Duke of Normandy,
wearing the robes which belonged to that dignity. The province was to
have its proper exchequer and coinage; a standard for measures was
established, and regulations were made for the conduct of trade. In
the brief opportunities that were given him Henry seems to have showed
himself a capable administrator of civil affairs. His new subjects were
impressed by the experience of a government more firm and just than
that which their native rulers had exercised.



The first part of the following year (1419) was spent in negotiation.
Early in March the Duke of Britanny paid another visit to the King for
the purpose of confirming the friendly relations between them. At the
same time overtures were made to him by both the parties who claimed to
direct the government of France--by the Dauphin[11] on the one hand,
and the Duke of Burgundy, acting in the name of King Charles the Sixth,
on the other.

The negotiations with the Dauphin came to nothing, nor was it indeed
possible that they should have any result. Henry persisted in his
claim to be king of France; and if he consented to discuss any other
conditions of peace, always reserved this right. The Dauphin, as the
eldest son of the reigning king, could not seriously treat with such a
claimant. Overtures made on either side could only have been feints.
The Duke of Burgundy, on the contrary, had no pretensions that were
absolutely irreconcilable with Henry’s claim. He had in his power the
imbecile King, the Queen, and all the royal family, the Dauphin only
excepted. In right of the authority which the King was said to have
delegated to him, he claimed to be Regent of France. He would doubtless
have wished to be Regent under the imbecile Charles rather than under
the vigorous Henry. So far he was adverse to the success of the
English king; but it was quite possible for him to secure out of that
success terms advantageous to himself. The accession of the Dauphin,
in the probable event of the death of Charles, would make his position
untenable. On the whole we may conclude that he was not indisposed to
come to an agreement with Henry, but did not see his way to obtaining
such an agreement as he wanted.

On May 30th, after various negotiations, which it is needless to relate
in detail, a formal meeting took place at Melun. All the arrangements
were of the greatest magnificence, and the most rigorous etiquette,
dictated doubtless by mutual suspicion, was observed.

On the side of the French came the Duke of Burgundy, Isabeau, Queen of
France, and the fair Katherine herself. It was on her charms indeed
that the French negotiators relied greatly for their success. All
accounts agree in giving the greatest praise to her beauty, though it
is a praise scarcely justified by her portrait. The nose especially
is of an excessive length, and falls a little over the mouth, a
characteristic of the Valois face; but, says Monstrelet, “King Henry
was very anxious to marry her, and not without cause, for she was very
handsome, of high birth, and of the most engaging manners.” Henry’s
attachment indeed had something almost romantic about it. There had
been many plans of finding an alliance for him, but ever since he had
been able to act for himself he had never swerved from his purpose of
winning Katherine the Fair of France for his wife. He was now a man of
thirty-two, and, if we put aside the dubious reports about the excesses
of his youth, we may say that, as far as we know, he had never thought
of any woman but her. Marriage to a daughter of France might help him,
he thought, to gain the crown; nor was he willing to abate his claim,
even in the minor matter of dower, in consideration of Katherine’s
beauty. Still we cannot doubt that he was a sincere and even ardent

At three in the afternoon Queen Isabeau came out of her tent, the
Lords of her Council walking two and two before her, and the Duke of
Burgundy leading her by the hand. The Princess Katherine followed, led
by the Count of St. Pol. Henry, who was accompanied by his two brothers
Clarence and Gloucester, and by his uncles the Duke of Exeter and the
Cardinal Beaufort, advanced to meet them. He bowed, took the Queen by
the hand, and kissed her. Then he saluted the Princess in the same way.
His brothers did the same, but instead of bowing, bent the knee almost
to the ground. It was observed that the Duke of Burgundy, in saluting
the King, made the same gesture of respect. The whole party then
entered the pavilion that had been prepared for their conference. For
all his courtesy Henry did not forget his pretensions. He claimed to
have the upper hand of the French queen, and, after a long dispute, had
his way. A conference followed, but it was not intended that business
should be transacted on that day. This was postponed till the next
meeting, which, it was arranged, was to take place on June 1st.

The month was spent in further discussion. We may gather from what
has been recorded that Henry was content to fall back, at least for
the time, on the terms of the Treaty of Bretigny, and that the French
commissioners, on the other hand, sought to minimise their concessions.
They could not execute the Treaty of Bretigny, because many of the
places named in it were in the hands of the Dauphin. Henry, who had not
been allowed another sight of the Princess, was profoundly irritated
at the manifest intention on the part of the French negotiators to
baffle him, and especially at the way in which they sought to utilise
his position as a suitor. His anger broke out in a fierce reply to the
Duke of Burgundy, when this prince reproached him with the want of
moderation in his demands. “I will have you know,” he cried, “that I
will not only have your Princess, but your King himself in my power;
and that I will obtain the marriage that I seek, or force him from his
throne, and drive you out of the kingdom.” The Duke replied, “You may
say what you please; but I doubt not that before you force him from
his throne, or drive me out of France, we shall make you weary of your

Another meeting had been fixed for July 3rd; but Henry, coming to
attend it, found that the French commissioners had left the place. It
seemed that peace was as far off as ever.

The fact was that the Duke of Burgundy was playing a double part.
While the conferences at Melun were going on, he had been in frequent
communication with the Dauphin. Twelve days after his last conference
with Henry, the Dauphin and the Duke met at Pouilly-le-Fort, a place
only a league distant from Melun itself. The interview of the two
was, to all appearance, cordial and even affectionate. The Duke bowed
several times very low, and finally kneeled to the Dauphin, who raised
him in the most gracious way from the ground. At parting the Duke
insisted on holding the stirrup while the Dauphin mounted. The two
princes were to share the administration of the kingdom between them;
they were to give each other all the help in their power; they were not
to enter into any agreement without mutual consent. The treaty, which
was finally concluded on July 29th, was published throughout France.

To Henry, of course, this was a declaration of war. He immediately
took the field. The first point of attack was Pontoise in the Isle of
France. The town was taken by a surprise, skilfully planned by Henry
himself. The English troops arrived in the early morning, scaled the
walls before the guard was even aware of their presence, and, after a
sharp struggle with the garrison, made themselves masters of the town.
Pontoise was a great prize. It contained a great store of war-material
and a large sum of money; and it was the only fortified place between
the country occupied by Henry and Paris itself. The King declared in a
letter to his Council at home that it was the most important place that
he had taken since the beginning of the war. The fact was emphasised
in the course of a few days by the appearance of the Duke of Clarence
before the walls of Paris.

But Henry’s victories, brilliant as they were, could hardly have
brought him final success but for the criminal folly of his
adversaries. On September 10th the Duke of Burgundy was murdered at
the Bridge of Montereau. What share the Dauphin had in this atrocious
deed--whether he commanded it and even gave the signal for the
assassins to strike, or whether he simply stood by and suffered it to
be perpetrated without interfering--scarcely concerns us. Perhaps we
may take the more favourable account of Monstrelet, who indeed had the
best opportunities for learning the truth. “While these things were
passing,” he says, “the Dauphin leaned on the barrier, looking on,
but soon drew back, as one much frightened.” And indeed the Duke had
private and public enemies who would not scruple to take his life. One
cannot wonder at the violent death of the man who had perpetrated such
a deed as the assassination of the Duke of Orleans.

But whether the Dauphin was an accomplice before or after the act, the
result was the same. The murder of the Duke gave Henry the crown of
France. Paris, where the dead prince had been popular, was furious at
his death. The provosts of the city, assembled by the Count of St. Pol,
swore a solemn oath that they would employ their lives and fortunes in
avenging this execrable deed. The King and Queen renounced their son,
and declared their intention of making peace with the king of England,
as the only hope for the country. And, most important of all, Philip
Count of Charolois, eldest son and heir of the murdered Duke, threw
himself heart and soul into the English alliance.

The Dauphin withdrew to Poictiers. France south of the Loire was in his
hands, but north of that river it substantially belonged to the English
king and to his Burgundian ally. During the autumn of 1419 and the
following spring there were no military operations of much importance.
A desultory warfare was waged with the Dauphin, while, on the other
hand, there was a succession of truces between Henry and the party of
the French king. Negotiations, meanwhile, went busily on, and this
time with a real intention on all sides that they should lead to some
result; and this result may be seen in what was called “The Perpetual
Peace of Troyes,” finally concluded on May 21st. King Charles was to
have undisturbed possession of the crown during his life; after his
death the crown should go to Henry and his heirs; during Charles’s
incapacity to reign, Henry should be Regent of France, and should be
styled by the King “our most dear son Henry, King of England and heir
of France”; the Princess Katherine was to become Queen of England, with
the customary annuity of forty thousand crowns.

On the same day that the treaty was finally ratified, the betrothal
took place in the Church of St. Peter at Troyes. The Queen of France
and the Princess were attended by the Duke of Burgundy and forty of
his council. Before the betrothal Isabeau and Henry went together to
the high altar, where the articles of peace were read aloud, and both
affixed their seals to them. Then Henry and Katherine joined hands and
were contracted, while the Duke of Burgundy took an oath to obey Henry
as Regent of France so long as King Charles should live, and after the
latter’s death, to acknowledge him as his liege-lord. Nine days later,
the marriage was celebrated with great magnificence. Henry had attained
the object of his ambition--he was Regent and heir of France, and he
was the husband of the Fair Katherine.



Henry did not give any long time to his honeymoon. The story indeed
is told of him that when some English knights asked him whether
a tournament should not be included among the festivities of his
marriage, he answered that they should have tilting enough, but that
it should be tilting in earnest. He was as good as his word, for he
was not going to waste the best time for campaigning. Early in June
he laid siege to Sens, a Burgundian town of which the Dauphin had
possessed himself. Sens capitulated after a resistance of twelve days.
From Sens he proceeded to Montereau, the place where the Duke of
Burgundy had been murdered. The town was taken with little difficulty,
but the castle held out for some days. Henry, loath to waste his
time in reducing it, had recourse to a proceeding which is another
proof how pitiless was his temper when any military advantage was
concerned. Some of the principal prisoners captured in the town were
sent to parley with the commander of the citadel. Their lives, they
said, depended upon his at once surrendering it; and they represented
that he could not hold out long against the overwhelming force of
the English king. The Governor met them with a refusal, and Henry,
aware that such threats would lose all efficacy for the future if they
were not executed, ordered them all to be hanged. But when, eight
days after, the garrison offered to surrender, he granted favourable
conditions. He observed what may be called the rules of the game with
undeviating strictness. The execution of the prisoners was, according
to the notions of the time, within his right; and the Governor was
equally within his right in holding out as long as he could. Monstrelet
mentions at the same time another incident which illustrates the same
aspect of Henry’s character. A running footman who always followed his
horse, and was a great favourite with him, had the misfortune to kill a
knight in a quarrel. The King ordered him at once to be hanged.

The next event of importance was the siege of Melun, a strongly
fortified town on the Seine, and of great importance as commanding the
passage of the river. Henry, who had recently been joined by his second
brother the Duke of Bedford, invested it on one side, and the Duke of
Burgundy on the other. It was no easy task which they had undertaken,
for they had themselves to be on their guard against attack from
without; Meaux and other towns in the neighbourhood were garrisoned by
the Dauphin’s troops, and frequent sallies were made on the besiegers’
trenches. The camps were accordingly strongly fortified. A bridge of
boats connected them with one another, and also prevented any relief of
the town by water.

The English cannon played upon the walls with such effect that what
appeared a practicable breach was made. Henry’s quick eye, however,
discovered that the attempt would cost too many lives, and refused to
make it, even when urged by the Duke of Burgundy. Another ally who
soon afterwards arrived in the camp, the Duke of Bavaria, expressed
his surprise that the attempt had not been made. Henry heard him with
patience, represented to him his own views, but finally consented that
an assault should be delivered. It does not, however, appear that he
allowed his own troops to be employed. As commander-in-chief he gave
permission to the two Dukes to make the attempt. The storming party
from the Burgundian camp advanced boldly to the assault, but was
repulsed with great loss.

The next attempt was made by mining. The work was discovered when it
was brought close to the walls of the city. A counter-mine was made
by the garrison, and before long the two partitions between the two
mines were broken down, and the passage, which was now of considerable
breadth, became the scene of frequent combats. On one occasion we hear
of Henry fighting in person. Monstrelet speaks of him and the Duke of
Burgundy engaging two of the Dauphinois “with push of pike.” Titus
Livius tells a more romantic story, how, entering at the head of his
men, he engaged in single combat with the commander of the garrison,
the Lord de Barbasan. Neither of them knew the other. After a while
they paused. The King asked his antagonist who he was. “I am Barbasan,”
said he, “and you?” “You have fought,” said Henry, “with the King of
England.” Henry was a stout man-at-arms, and loved the excitement
of changing blows; but he did not neglect for this delight the more
important duties of a general, which seldom permit such an indulgence.
It is only here and at Agincourt, when indeed a desperate situation
demanded his display of personal valour, that we hear of his actual
prowess in the field.

Melun held out bravely till far in the winter. Barbasan had strictly
forbidden any talk of surrender, and the townspeople lived in hope of
relief from the Dauphin. Meanwhile the besiegers were suffering greatly
from the same disease that had caused such loss before the walls of
Harfleur. The Prince of Orange, too, withdrew all his troops. “He was
ready,” he declared, “to serve the Duke of Burgundy, but he would not
put France under the power of her ancient enemy.” But the presence
of famine became more and more intolerable, and when towards the end
of November a definite message came from the Dauphin that he was not
strong enough to attempt a relief, Barbasan proposed a capitulation.
The terms granted were not liberal: those who surrendered were to have
life but not liberty; they must remain prisoners unless they could give
security not to bear arms again against the King of France and his
Regent, the King of England. Special exception was made against all who
had been concerned in the murder of the Duke of Burgundy. The Governor
himself was charged with having been an accomplice in this crime, and
remained in prison for nine years. There was a considerable number of
Scotch soldiers among the prisoners: these, too, had been exempted from
the offer of mercy, and twenty of them were executed. Henry’s increased
severity was probably due not to any change of temper, but to the
feeling that he was now dealing with rebels rather than enemies. Melun
was surrendered at the beginning of December, after holding out between
three and four months.

From Melun Henry proceeded to Corbeuil, where the French court had
taken up its abode; and from Corbeuil the two Kings, with the Duke of
Burgundy, made a solemn entry into Paris, where they were received
with what appeared to be an enthusiastic welcome. The first business
transacted was to cite and to condemn as contumacious the murderers
of the late Duke. The Dauphin, summoned under the title of Charles,
Duke of Touraine, was declared to be attainted and convicted of the
crime laid to his charge, banished from France, and pronounced for
ever incapable of succeeding to the inheritance of the crown or of
any dominions that might be acquired for it. Henry thus saw another
obstacle to the ambition of his life cleared out of his way. This done,
King Charles, sitting in the hall of his palace of St. Paul, publicly
declared his assent to the treaty which had given the reversion of the
crown to the king of England.

The two sovereigns kept distinct courts. That of Henry was by far the
more splendidly equipped and numerously attended of the two. He was the
rising sun, and all men looked to him. All offices of trust and profit
were at his disposal, and the nobles and gentlemen of France flocked
into his ante-chambers. More important visitors than these courtiers
were the two Lords of Albret, a family of the highest importance, who
offered him their homage as Duke of Acquitaine; and many other great
lords, spiritual and temporal, followed their example.

Meanwhile Henry busied himself with the duties of government. He set
himself to redress the grievances and reform the abuses which a time
of disorder and division had produced in abundance. He devoted special
attention to the coinage, which, to the great injury of trade, had been
much debased. At Paris, as in Normandy, his subjects were favourably
impressed with the promise of a just and vigorous rule that his civil
administration held out.

Shortly after Christmas Henry left Paris for Rouen, where he devoted
some days to settling the affairs of the Norman duchy. From Rouen he
went to Amiens, and thence again to Calais, crossing over to Dover on
February 1st. A few days were spent at Canterbury, and then followed a
triumphal entry into London and the coronation of Queen Katherine at
Westminster Abbey. The Duke of Clarence had been left as the King’s
Lieutenant-General in France, but with a special charge as Governor of
Normandy. Paris was put under the care of the Duke of Exeter.



The coronation of Queen Katherine was performed on February 24th. About
a month later came the news of a great disaster to the English arms
in France. The Duke of Clarence had been defeated and slain at Beaujé
in Anjou. He had made a plundering expedition into that province,
and lay at Angers, on the Mayenne, when he heard of the presence of
the Dauphin’s army a few miles to the east. Misinformed of the real
strength of the enemy, or perhaps taught by a long succession of
victories to despise him, he hurried to the attack, refusing even to
wait till his whole force could be brought up, and riding on with his
cavalry only. The details of the conflict that followed are obscure,
but the result was a disastrous defeat. The Duke was killed, and with
him fifteen hundred, or, according to some accounts, two thousand of
his troops, among whom were the Lords Ross and Gray, and the Earls of
Huntingdon and Somerset. The honours of the victory belonged to the
Scotch, seven thousand of whom were present under command of the Earl
of Buchan, youngest son of the Duke of Albany.

And in other ways things were not going well. The Duke of Exeter’s
position in Paris was unsafe, while in Northern France, of which
the English had seemed to have undisputed possession, the party
of the Dauphin was again making head. Henry saw that his presence
was imperatively needed, and hastened his preparations for another

There were signs of exhaustion in the country. It was becoming
increasingly difficult to raise both men and money. At least a
hundred thousand troops had already crossed the Channel; and the
losses, by battle and disease, had been very large. The difficulty
of money had, as we have seen, always been serious; and six years of
incessant war had greatly increased it. Henry, however, persevered with
indomitable energy, and the nation, among whom his popularity seems
to have suffered no diminution, seconded his efforts. On June 10th he
embarked with an army numbering no less than four thousand men-at-arms
and twenty-four thousand archers. This time Dover was his point of
departure, and a prosperous voyage brought him to Calais on the same
day at noon.

His first care was to relieve the Duke of Exeter. A force of twelve
hundred men was at once despatched, and reached Paris without
encountering the enemy. The King’s presence, indeed, seemed to revive
the English cause almost instantaneously throughout Normandy and
Northern France. One of the principal operations of the campaign
was the relief of Chartres, which the Dauphin had invested while
Henry was still in England. On the approach of the English army the
French retired without fighting a battle: the victory of Beaujé had
not restored the confidence which had been lost at Agincourt. It is
significant to find that in the account of a battle fought in the
course of the campaign between the Dauphin and the Duke of Burgundy the
chronicler tells us that the French were much encouraged by finding
that there were no English in the Duke’s army. The capture of Dreux,
which was surrendered on August 20th, was also an important gain.
Henry--and the fact is a notable proof of his military capacity--had in
the course of some ten weeks regained all that had been lost during his

The English arms being again supreme in Northern France, he proceeded
to extend the limits of the territory which they occupied, and marched
southwards to the Loire. Vendôme fell into his hands, and, after
Vendôme, Beaugency. Crossing the Loire, he proceeded as far south as
Bourges, where the Dauphin, who steadily persisted in his policy of
avoiding a battle, had shut himself up. But Bourges was too strong
to be taken except by operations for which Henry had not then the
means; and Orleans, still unreduced, was in his rear. A more pressing
necessity was the capture of Meaux. As long as this fortress remained
in the hands of the Dauphin, the position of the English in Paris was
not safe. Meaux was accordingly invested on October 6th. The King left
the conduct of the siege for a time in the hands of the Duke of Exeter,
and returned to Paris, where many civil matters called for his presence.

The pressure on his supply of troops had now become exceedingly severe.
He was forced to enlist large numbers of French soldiers to fill up
the gaps in his English army: he sent envoys to the Emperor Sigismund
soliciting help in men-at-arms and archers; and a similar request was
also made to John, King of Portugal. In addition to losses in the field
and by sickness, four thousand of his men are said to have died of an
epidemic in the course of a single march during the campaign on the
Loire; and still it was necessary to garrison every town or fortress of
military importance that might be won from the enemy. Arthur, younger
brother of the Duke of Britanny, who had some time before been released
from his long imprisonment, came with a considerable reinforcement to
join the army; and after Christmas the Duke of Burgundy paid a visit
to the King, who had by that time returned to the camp. But the Duke
did not stay long, for a serious family quarrel had arisen between the
two Princes. Jacqueline, Duchess of Brabant, had left her husband and
taken refuge at the English court, where Henry had welcomed her with
assurance of his protection. The Duke of Burgundy, on the other hand,
took up the cause of his kinsman the Duke of Brabant with much energy,
and a serious difference was the result.

Meanwhile, on December 6th, Queen Katherine had given birth to a son,
the unfortunate Henry of Windsor. The King, for some reason that is not
explained, found an augury of evil--so at least runs the story--in the
fact that Windsor was the birthplace of his heir. He is reported to
have said to his chamberlain, “I, Henry born at Monmouth, shall small
time reign, and get much; and Henry born at Windsor shall long, long
reign, and lose all; but God’s will be done.” The prophecy, whether
made before or after the event, was certainly fulfilled with singular
exactness. Perhaps the great conqueror already felt that his own time
was short, and he had certainly had sufficient proof that, when his
own presence was withdrawn, things were not likely to go well.

During the winter and early spring the siege of Meaux was vigorously
prosecuted. The King had, however, scarcely sufficient troops for the
work, the more so as he was more than once obliged to detach a force to
serve elsewhere. The Dauphin’s troops had surprised Auraches, and it
had to be recovered from them. More ominous, as showing the insecurity
of the conquests made, was the call for troops in Normandy, where
Oliver de Mauny, Lord of Falaise, who had sworn allegiance to the King
of England, was ravaging the country. The Dauphin could not relieve
Auraches, and De Mauny was taken prisoner; but it was evident that a
work of immense difficulty and extent still remained to be done.

Meaux held out for seven months. Its Governor, who went by the name of
the Bastard of Maurus, had offended so deeply against the laws of war
that he could have no hope of pardon were he to capitulate. Instead
of carrying on hostilities according to ordinary methods, he had
behaved like a robber chief. Any party that ventured without sufficient
strength near his fortress he would sally forth and attack; nor did
he make any difference whether it was bent on a peaceable or warlike
errand. Nor was he careful to inquire into its nationality, especially
if it carried anything worth plundering. Any prisoners that he supposed
or alleged to be English or Burgundians he used to hang on an elm that
grew outside the walls and was called by his name.

In April the state of affairs in the town grew desperate. An attempt
at relief made by the Dauphin had failed, ending in the capture of
the leader who commanded it. The first proceeding of the besieged was
to abandon the main part of the town, and concentrate their force in
what was called the market-place, which was separated from the rest of
the city by the river. The attempt of the townspeople to remove their
property to this stronghold was interrupted by a sudden attack from the
besiegers, but the garrison made good their escape into it.

Henry proceeded to attack this stronghold. He began by occupying a
small island in the river, from which he kept up a vigorous attack
with several siege-cannon and catapults. An important position was
lost to the besieged by the capture of the mill, and a breach was made
in the wall. Before ordering an assault Henry summoned the garrison
to surrender. This summons the besieged met with an insulting answer,
which they followed up by a successful sally, killing the whole of a
party which they surprised in a meadow under the walls.

Orders were now given for a general and immediate assault. For seven or
eight hours the conflict raged fiercely. So obstinate was the courage
of the besieged, that when their lances were broken they defended
themselves with iron spits, and night fell before an entrance could be
effected. At one time the storming party had gained the ditch, but they
were driven out of it again.

Further resistance, however, was hopeless. The walls lay in ruins,
and another assault could hardly be repulsed. Henry again offered
terms. He had been personally insulted during the siege, but this did
not affect his temper, which indeed was remarkably imperturbable,
either by pity or anger. The terms offered and accepted were not more
severe than the military practice of the time permitted. Four persons,
among whom was the Bastard of Maurus, with all English, Scotch, and
Irish soldiers, were excepted from the King’s clemency: the rest of
the captives were to be kept close prisoners till the close of the
war. On May 11th Meaux was given into the King’s hands. The Bastard
of Maurus was beheaded, and his body hanged on the tree which he had
made notorious by his cruelty. The other excepted prisoners were taken
to Paris, and executed after due trial. We do not hear of any other

The capture of this town was Henry’s last exploit.



On May 21st Queen Katherine landed at Harfleur with her infant son. She
was accompanied by a brilliant court, and by the Duke of Bedford, who
had been summoned to join his brother, now feeling, we may suppose,
a pressing need of the assistance of his military skill. The Queen
journeyed from Harfleur on to Rouen, and from Rouen to Vincennes, where
Henry met her. Their entry into Paris was magnificent. It was noticed
that the English queen had two mantles of ermine borne before her
carriages, to mark, it was supposed, her dignity as Queen of England
and France. Charles was at that time also in Paris, and it was again
noticed that it was the English court rather than the French that
formed the centre of attraction. Meanwhile Henry was winning good
opinion from the commonalty by his just and moderate government, and
especially by his exact and impartial administration of justice, a new
thing in a country where privilege was always so powerful. On June
22nd Henry and his Queen left Paris for Senlis. He was soon again in
the capital to inquire into the circumstances of a plot which had been
discovered for the delivery of the city into the hands of the Dauphin;
and it was after his second return to Senlis that his health began
manifestly to fail. Of the nature of his illness we are not exactly
informed. Monstrelet says that it was St. Anthony’s fire or erysipelas;
other accounts speak of a fistula and pleurisy; in Walsingham the cause
of death is given as “a sharp fever with vehement dysentery.” Henry did
not come of a long-lived race. His great-grandfather indeed reached
an age (sixty-five) which, though often since exceeded, had only once
before been reached by an English king; but his grandfather--the
“time-honoured Lancaster” of Shakespeare--had died, worn out, at
fifty-eight; his father, after years of suffering, expired at
forty-seven; and his mother died in her twenty-fifth year.

Cosne-sur-Loire, a walled city belonging to the Duke of Burgundy, had
been besieged by the Dauphin, and had agreed to capitulate unless
relieved before August 6th. The Duke sent for help to Flanders and
Picardy, and, of course, to King Henry. The King replied that he would
come in person, and bring his whole army with him. The army marched
out of its quarters in Paris and its environs, and Henry, after taking
leave of his wife, whom indeed he never saw again, started from Senlis
to join it. He was able to ride as far as Melun, where he exchanged the
saddle for a litter, intending to overtake the army; but his illness
increased so rapidly that he was compelled to give up his purpose. He
handed over the command to the Duke of Bedford, and was carried to the
Bois de Vincennes. There he took to his bed, from which he never rose

He seems to have been aware that his days were numbered. The Dukes
of Bedford and Exeter, the Earl of Warwick, and some four or five
more of his most trusted counsellors were called to his bedside. To
his brother John he said: “My good brother, I beseech you, on the
loyalty and love you have ever expressed for me, that you show the same
loyalty and affection to my son Henry, your nephew.” He then gave him
directions as to the policy he was to pursue. Monstrelet professes to
give the dying man’s exact words, but at this point they are obscure
and even contradictory. The Duke of Burgundy was to have the Regency
of France, if he wished for it; otherwise his brother was to take it
himself. Then, turning to his uncle, he said: “My good uncle of Exeter,
I nominate you sole Regent of the kingdom of England, for that you well
know how to govern it; and I likewise nominate you as guardian to my
son; and I insist, on your love to me, that very often you personally
visit and see him.” To the Earl of Warwick his words were: “My dear
cousin of Warwick, I will that you be his governor, and that you teach
him all things becoming his rank, for I cannot provide a fitter person
for the purpose.”

Then followed some advice as to the management of affairs. Above all
things, dissension with the Duke of Burgundy must be avoided; and this
was especially impressed on his brother Humphrey, whose relations with
the Duke were not friendly. Unless they could keep on good terms with
him, everything would be ruined. The princes of the French royal family
whom they had in custody were on no account to be released.

After an interview with Sir Hugh de Lannoy, who had come to him on a
mission from the Duke of Burgundy, Henry began to prepare for his end.
He sent for his physicians, and asked them how long they thought he
had to live. They were naturally unwilling to tell him the truth, and
endeavoured to evade the question: “It depended solely,” they said, “on
the will of God whether he should be restored to health.” The King,
dissatisfied with this answer, repeated his question, and commanded
them to tell him the actual truth. They consulted together. Then one of
them, whom they had appointed their spokesman, fell on his knees by the
bedside and said: “Sire, you must think on your soul; for, unless it be
the will of God to decree otherwise, it is impossible that you should
live more than two hours.”

On hearing this, Henry sent for his confessor. He made his confession,
and received the last sacraments of the Church. He then bade his
chaplains recite the seven penitential Psalms. When in chanting the
fifty-first they came to the words “Build Thou the walls of Jerusalem,”
he interrupted them and said aloud that he had fully intended, after
wholly subduing the realm of France and restoring it to peace, to
conquer the kingdom of Jerusalem. The priests went on with their
devotions. In the midst of them he cried out again, as if addressing
some invisible adversary, “Thou liest, thou liest; my part is with
the Lord Jesus”; then with a still louder voice, “_In manus tuas,
Domine_”--and so breathed his last. The day of his death was the last
day of August. He had just completed his thirty-fourth year.

The body was embalmed and placed in a coffin of lead. From Vincennes
it was first taken in great pomp, attended by the English princes, his
household, and a multitude of the people, to the Church of Notre-Dame
in Paris, where a solemn service was performed over it. From Paris it
was removed with the same state to Rouen.

At Rouen, Queen Katherine, who had been kept in ignorance of her
husband’s perilous condition, waited with the corpse till affairs were
sufficiently settled to allow of the return of the princes to England.
This was not for some weeks, and it must have been about the beginning
of November when the funeral procession set out. The route was through
Abbeville, Hesdin, Montreuil, and Boulogne to Calais.

The coffin was placed on a car drawn by four magnificent horses. Above
it was an effigy of the King, worked in leather, beautifully painted,
with a crown of gold upon the head. The right hand held a sceptre; the
left a golden ball; the face looked up to the heavens. The effigy lay
on a mattress, on which was a coverlet of vermilion silk interwoven
with beaten gold. When it passed through any town a canopy of silk,
like that which is borne over the Host on Corpus Christi Day, was
carried over it by men of rank. The King of Scots followed as chief
mourner; with him were Henry’s kinsmen, the English nobles in France,
and the officers of his household; at the distance of a league behind
followed the Queen with her ladies. The first halt was at the Church of
St. Wolfran in Abbeville; there the coffin rested awhile, while rows of
priests on either side chanted requiems unceasingly day and night. In
every town through which the procession passed, masses were daily said
from break of day to noon for the dead man’s soul.

From Calais the body was transported to Dover. From Dover it was
carried through Canterbury and Rochester to London, which was reached
on Martinmas Day (November 11th). As it approached the city it was
met by fifteen bishops clad in their episcopal robes, a number of
mitred abbots and other dignified ecclesiastics, and a vast multitude
of people of all ranks. The service for the dead was chanted as the
car passed over London Bridge, down Lombard Street, to St. Paul’s
Cathedral. The adornment of the horses which drew it was notably
significant. On the collar of the first were emblazoned the ancient
arms of England; on that of the second, the arms of France and England
quartered--these the late King had borne in his lifetime, as a solemn
claim to the double crown; the third showed the arms of France simply;
the fourth the traditionary bearings of the invincible Arthur--for,
like him, Henry had never been vanquished in the field--three crowns
_or_ on a field _azure_. After a great service in St. Paul’s the body
was transferred to its final resting-place in Westminster. Preparations
on a scale and of a kind such as had never before been thought of were
there made for its reception. The relics hitherto preserved at the
extreme eastern end of the Confessor’s Chapel were removed from their
place, to make room for the body of the great King. Over the spot was
raised a chantry, where masses were to be offered up for ever for his
soul, and an altar built in honour of the Annunciation. For a year
thirty poor persons were to recite there the Psalter of the Virgin,
adding to it in English the words, “Mother of God, remember thy servant
Henry, who putteth his whole trust in thee!” The masses have long
since ceased to be said; but the chapel with its elaborate sculptures
still remains to show the reverence in which the pious soldier was
held--reverence such, writes Monstrelet, “as if it were certain he was
a saint in Paradise.” The shape of the chapel is that of the first
letter of his name. Among the statues which adorn it are those of St.
George of England and St. Denis of France, the two kingdoms which for
a time at least he had united; and the sculptures represent the scenes
of his life, his coronation, and his victories in France. The shield
and the helmet that are still to be seen above the tomb belong indeed
to Henry’s time, but are not, as they have been represented to be, his
actual arms, having been furnished by the undertaker as part of the
funeral equipment. On the tomb below may still be seen the image of
the King, but sadly stripped of its ancient splendour. For the leather
effigy which was carried from Rouen to London was substituted, as a
more permanent memorial, a figure cut out of heart of oak, covered
with silver-gilt and with a head of solid silver. These ornaments were
too tempting for the cupidity of some of his degenerate countrymen.
_Sepulchrum modicum et mansurum_ is the terse phrase of Tacitus, but
Henry’s tomb did not fulfil the condition. Two teeth of gold were
carried off in the reign of Edward the Fourth, and the silver was
stolen at the time of the Dissolution. Had it been wrought of humbler
stone or alabaster, it might not have been the headless effigy which
stirred the wrath of Addison, and still rebukes us with the thought of
to what meanness humanity can descend.

The author of the curious _Versus Rhythmici de Henrico Quinto_ has
given us an elaborate description of the King’s personal appearance.
The name of this writer is unknown, but it is clear from many of
the expressions that he uses that he was a Westminster monk who
held some office in the royal household. Henry’s head, he tells us,
was spherical, his forehead smooth (_planus_), an epithet which may
possibly mean not receding. These two characteristics were, in his
view, signs of intelligence; whether he is right or wrong in his
generalisation, we may gather that Henry had an intelligent aspect.
His hair was brown, thick, and smooth: here the writer uses again the
epithet _plani_, for want, it would seem, of a more convenient word; he
was moving, it should be said, in the very cramping fetters of Leonine
verse. His nose was straight, and his face long (_extensus_): he had,
that is, the oval face so characteristic of the great Englishmen
of a later age, the golden time of Elizabeth. His complexion was
bright (_floridus_ is the word used, but “florid” would give a false
impression): his eyes clear and brilliant, opening wide, with a reddish
tinge in them (if this is the true translation of _subrufe patentes_);
they were the eyes of a dove when he was not provoked, of a lion when
he was stirred with anger. His teeth were white as snow and evenly
set; his ears small and well shaped; his chin divided (_fissum_,
meaning that it had a noticeable indentation); his neck of a becoming
thickness, and fair; his cheeks flat (_non inflatæ_ is the phrase,
meaning that they were not “puffy,” as were the cheeks of Henry the
Eighth) and of a good colour, and his lips of a vermilion hue. His
limbs were strongly and handsomely formed, with bones and sinews
firmly knit together. The chronicler Hall gives a description which
is substantially the same: “He was of stature more than the common
sort, of body lean, well-membered and strongly made, a face beautiful,
somewhat long-necked, black haired.” Black as the colour of his hair
is doubtless a mistake for brown, the epithet used by the contemporary

The author of this description goes on to relate the royal virtues.
Henry was regular in his attendance at mass, which he heard in his
private closet, diligently abstracting his mind at the time from
worldly cares. He made weekly confession. He was moderate in food and
drink, liberal in almsgiving, regular in his fasts. His mood varied
between liveliness and gravity (_morosus_). He was diligent in the
administration of justice, specially ready to help the cause of the
widow, prompt to put down abuses, “often reading books he surrenders
himself to an honourable occupation; and,” goes on the writer with an
abrupt transition, “as a bold archer he avoids inaction; therefore he
is not fleshy, nor burdened with corpulence, but a handsome man, never
weary, whether he be on horseback or on foot.” Elsewhere, too, he
speaks of the King’s fondness for hunting, fowling, and fishing, and of
his activity as a walker and rider, characteristics which follow his
praises as “one who was not given to vice or gluttony.” There can be
no doubt that, at least from the time when his father’s death brought
home to him the responsibilities of power, he emphatically deserved the
praise of purity of life.

The devotional aspect of his character has been spoken of more than
once in these pages. It would be unjust to doubt the sincerity of
his piety because many of his acts seem inconsistent with our own
conceptions of the character which piety should produce. It was not
the less genuine in him because it did not make him tender-hearted or
philanthropic, because he pursued his great scheme of conquest without
scruple, without remorse, without a thought for the blood which he was
shedding, or for the desolation which he was causing. His religion
made him what few kings have been, temperate and chaste. It did not
make him merciful; it would not be too much to say that in Henry’s age
it made no man merciful. We must compare it, not with the religion
of a Havelock or a Gordon, but with the grovelling superstition of
a Lewis the Eleventh. It would certainly be more just to charge him
with fanaticism than with hypocrisy. He seems to have looked upon
his wars for the acquisition of the French crown as a devout prince
two centuries before might have looked upon a crusade. It was his
mission to recover what he seems, difficult as it is to believe it,
to have sincerely regarded as his rightful inheritance. By one of
those processes of self-deception that are so difficult to imagine of
others, so easy to perform for ourselves, he had persuaded himself
of the soundness of a title which seems to us to need no refutation;
and all his candid, his almost audacious confidence, his unhesitating
rejection of compromises, as well as the earnestness of his prayers
and thanksgivings for victory, indicate a profound conviction that
he was doing a work to which he had been divinely sent. If we are to
compare him with the famous conquerors of the world, we should find
his parallel in Alexander, convinced that it was his mission to take
the vengeance of force for centuries of Persian wrong, rather than in
Napoleon, whose faith did not go beyond a conviction of the power of
his big battalions.

Of Henry’s qualities as a military leader it is impossible to speak
too highly. The one possible exception where he may be thought to
have failed, not indeed in skill, but in prudence, was the march
from Harfleur to Calais. Yet it was a piece of calculated audacity
abundantly justified by the result. To have gone back from Harfleur
with nothing to show for a wasted army but a single seaport, would
have discredited him both at home and abroad. He had to make an
impressive display of his superiority if he was to be accepted as
the future conqueror of France. His career after this was one of
unbroken success--success earned by courage, foresight, tactical skill,
fertility of resource, economy of strength, in short, by all the
qualities of a great captain. There is no more conclusive proof of his
greatness than the instantaneous change which his presence wrought in
the prospects of a campaign: _Ipso adventu profligata bella_.

Of his qualities as a ruler it is difficult to speak. It would be
unjust to compare him with Richard Cœur de Lion, and speak of him as
a great soldier and nothing more. On the other hand, we do not find
in him--we have indeed no opportunity of finding in him--the great
legislative power of Edward the First. But he was not unmindful of
his duties as a king, and in the midst of his campaigns he found
time for the cares of civil government. England never had a more
popular sovereign, though he made demands upon it in men and money
which, considering the shortness of his reign, must have exceeded all
precedent; and even in the country which he ruled as a stranger he won
a general admiration and respect.

It should not affect our estimate of his greatness that we now see his
schemes of conquest to have been chimerical, his purpose of uniting the
crowns of England and France an impossible dream. He must have himself
found it to be so had he lived. When thirty years had passed, after an
enormous expenditure of blood and treasure, nothing was left of his
French conquests. But he had come nearer than any who had gone before
him to the accomplishment of the great hope of his predecessors. He
died in Paris, the “Heir of France.”


_Printed by_ R. & R. CLARK, _Edinburgh_


[1] Henry’s brothers and sisters were (1) Thomas, Duke of Clarence,
born 1389, killed at Baugé in Anjou, March 22nd, 1421; (2) John, Duke
of Bedford, born 1390, died Regent of France at Rouen, September 14th,
1435; (3) Humphrey, born 1391, died, it was commonly supposed by foul
means, early in 1447; (4) Blanche, married to Louis, son of Rupert,
King of the Romans; (5) Philippa, married to Eric the Thirteenth, King
of Denmark.

[2] I have to express my special obligations to a pamphlet by Mr. F.
Solly-Flood, Q.C., reprinted from the _Transactions_ of the Royal
Historical Society. It bears the title of _The Story of Prince Henry
of Monmouth and Chief-Justice Gascoign_, but it discusses fully the
whole question of Henry’s character in early life. I am also greatly
indebted to the able account of Henry’s campaigns which is to be found
in Mr. H. R. Clinton’s _From Crécy to Assye_. Finally I must thank the
Provost of Queen’s College, Oxford, for his courtesy in communicating
to me some interesting information about Henry’s supposed residence at
Oxford, and Major Servanté, R.M., for his courtesy in guiding me on a
visit which I paid to the field of Agincourt.

[3] I cannot feel satisfied with Mr. F. Solly-Flood’s explanation that,
owing to the Prince’s frequent absences at Calais, his attendance at
the Council had been intermittent, and his salary had fallen into
arrear. A thousand marks is a large sum, more than a Councillor’s
salary for many years could amount to.

[4] The request seems reasonable enough--viz., that no boat or barge
travelling on a river, out of which a person might accidentally fall
and so be drowned, should be taken as a deodand, _i.e._ forfeited to
the lord of the manor or the Crown as being a cause or instrument of

[5] Edward’s claim had to encounter the difficulty that, according to
its argument, the French crown could not pass _to_ a female (for in
that case it would have gone to Joan, Queen of Navarre, the daughter of
Louis the Tenth, Charles’s eldest brother), but could pass _through_ a
female--that is, through his mother Isabella to himself.

[6] The demand in money amounted in all to more than a million pounds
in the currency of the time. It should be multiplied by fifteen to
convert it into present value. The sum would have been considered
large, had it not been dwarfed by the enormous ransom exacted from
France within the last few years.

[7] These were taxes on capital, the tenth being payable in town, the
fifteenth in the country. But the sum actually levied was not the
literal tenth or fifteenth of the property taxed. Burdensome as the
imposts certainly were, these payments would have passed all endurance.
From before the middle of the fourteenth century these taxes had been
commuted for fixed sums. So much was levied from each township or manor.

[8] This Richard was the Duke of York who was killed after the battle
of Wakefield, and whose son was Edward the Fourth.

[9] A story is told to the effect that on one occasion he passed the
place which had been arranged for his quarters. He would not return.
He was in his war-coat, and could not go back without displeasing God.
The anecdote seems characteristic of the man, and, indeed, to suit the
temper which had suggested the march to Calais.

[10] Contemporary estimates of their numbers vary very much.
Monstrelet, who probably drew his information from French sources,
puts them at one hundred and fifty thousand. Elsewhere he says that
they were more than six times the number of the English. The latter,
however, could not have numbered as many as twenty-five or even twenty
thousand. There would be a tendency, of course, after the battle to
diminish and to exaggerate the numbers engaged. It is certain that the
French superiority was very great. More it is impossible to say.

[11] Charles the Sixth had twelve children, whom it will be convenient
to enumerate:--(1) Charles, died in infancy; (2) Charles, died 1400,
at the age of nine; (3) Louis, died December 1415--though “stout of
body, and skilful in arms,” he had refused to fight at Agincourt;
(4) John, died August 1417; (5) Charles, afterwards Charles the
Seventh, the “Dauphin” mentioned in the text; (6) Philip, died in
infancy; (7) Isabella, second wife of Richard the Second of England,
afterwards married to the Duke of Orleans, who was murdered 1407 at the
instigation of the Duke of Burgundy; (8) Jane, died in infancy; (9)
Mary, took the veil; (10) Jane, married to the Duke of Britanny; (11)
Michelle, married to Philip, Count of Charolois, eldest son of the Duke
of Burgundy; (12) Katherine, born October 17th, 1400.

Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation and spelling were made consistent when a predominant
preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks retained.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained; occurrences of
inconsistent hyphenation have not been changed.

Page 133: “the excitement of changing blows” was printed that way, not
as “exchanging”.

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